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I  OIL  I  /.( '(if    .  h     \'^lT(itrc7', 

.fi-Puja^   JJvur^u.'i^-.a.'7'7 



From  ami  Engraxiing  after  Pnios. 






i-    Hi^uu 

*  II  faut  que  les  §,mes  pensantes  se  frottent  Tune  centre  I'autre 
pour  faire  jaillir  de  la  lumi^re.' 

VoLTAiEE  :  Letter  to  the  Due  d'  XJzes^  December  4, 1751. 


Y;      OF  THE      '^\ 








[All    rights    r«i«rT*d] 







I.  D'Alembert  :  the  Thinker  (1717-1783)       .        .    .        1 

II.  Diderot  :  the  Talker  (1713-1784)     .        . '      .        .32 

III.  GalianT:   the  Wit  (1728-1787) 62 

IV.  Vauvbnargues  :   the  Aphorist  (1715-1747)       .        .  96 
V.  D'Holbach:  the  Host  (1723-1789)       .        .        .    .  118 

VI.  Grimm:  the  Journalist  (1723-1807)         .        .        .  160 

VII.  Helvetius  :  the  Contradiction  (1715-1771)        .    .  176 

VIII.  Turgot:   the  Statesman  (1727-1781)        ...  206 

IX.  Beaumarchais  :  the  Playwright  (1732-1799)      .    .  236 

X.  CONDORCET  :    THE  ARISTOCRAT  (1743-1794) .          .          .  268 

Index 299 



D'Alembert Frontispiece 

From  an  Engraving  after  Pvjos. 

Diderot To  face  ^.32 

From  an  Engraving  by  Henriquez,  after  the  Portrait  by 

Galiani  „  62 

From  a  Print. 

Vauvenargues  „         96 

From  a  Print  in  the  Bibliotheque  Rationale,  Paris. 

D'HOLBACH ,,118 

From  a  Portrait  in  the  Musde  Cond4,  Chantilly. 

Grimm „        150 

From  an  Engraving,  after  Carmontelle,  in  the  Bibliothhque 
Rationale,  Paris. 

HELvinus ,,176 

From  an  Engraving  by  St.  Aubin,  after  the  Portrait  by 

TURGOT ,,206 

From  an  Engraving  by  Tje  Beau,  after  the  Portrait  by 

Beaumarghais „        236 

From  an  Engraving,  after  Michon,  in  the  Bibliotltique 
Nationale^  Paris. 

CONDORCBT .      .  „  268 

From  an   Engraving  by  Lemvrt,  after   the  Bust  by  St. 


D'Alembert.    Joseph  Bertrand. 

(Buvres  et  Correspondance  inedites.     B'Alembert, 

Correspondance  avec  d'Alembert.     Marquise  du  Deffand. 

Diderot  and  the  Encyclopaedists.     John  Morley. 

Eloge  de  d'Alembert.     Condorcet. 

(Euvres.    Diderot. 

Diderot.    Beimach. 

Diderot,  THomme  et  rEcrivain.    Ducros. 

Diderot.     Scherer. 

Diderot  et  Catherine  II.     Toumewx. 

Ferdinand©    Galiani,  Correspondance,    Etude,    etc.      Perrey    et 

Lettres  de  I'Abbe  Galiani.    Eugene  Asse. 
Memoires  et  Correspondance.    Madame  d'Epvnay. 
Jeunesse  de  Madame  d'Epinay.    Perrey  et  Maugras. 
Dernieres  Annees  de  Madame  d'Epinay.    Perrey  et  Maugras. 
Memoires.    Marmontel. 
Memoires.    Morellet. 
Causeries  du  Lundi.    Savnte-Beuve. 
Vauvenargues.    Paleologue. 
(Euvres  et  ^loge  de  Vauvenargues.    D.  L.  Gilbert. 
Melchior  Grimm.    Scherer, 
Eousseau.    John  Morley. 
Miscellanies.    John  Morley. 
Correspondance  Litt^raire.    Grimm  et  Diderot. 
Turgot.    L4on  Say. 
Turgot.     W.  B.  Hodgson. 
(Euvres.     Turgot. 
Vie  de  Turgot.     Condorcet. 

Correspondance  inedite  de  Condorcet  et  Turgot.     C.  Henry. 
La  Marquise  de  Condorcet.    Guillois. 
Vie  de  Condorcet.     Bobinet. 


Beaumarchais  et  Son  Temps.     Lominie. 

Beaumarchais.    Hallays. 

Th^&tre  de  Beaumarchais. 

La  Fin  de  TAncien  E^gime.    Imbert  de  Smnt-Ama/nd. 

French  Eevolution.    Ca/rlyle. 

Critical  Essays.     Garlyle. 

Correspondance.     VoUwire. 

•Portraits  Litt^raires  du  XVIII'^  Sieele.    La  Ha/rpe. 

Corn's  de  Litterature.    La  Harpe. 

M^moire  sm*  Helvetius.    Darmron. 

Le  Salon  de  Madame  Helvetius.     Guillois. 

Histoire  de  la  Philosophic  Moderne.     Buhle. 

Life  of  Hume.     Burton. 

The  Private  Correspondence  of  Garrick  with  Celebrated  Persons. 

Memoires  pour  servir  4  I'Histoire  de  la  Philosophic.     Damiron. 

Letters.    Laurence  Sterne. 




Of  that  vast  intellectual  movement  which  prepared 
the  way  for  the  most  stupendous  event  in  history, 
the  French  Kevolution,  Voltaire  was  the  creative 

Q  But  there  was  a  group  of  men,  less  famous  but 
not  less  great,  who  also  heralded  the  coming  of 
the  new  heaven  and  the  new  earth ;  who  were  in 
a  strict  sense  friends  and  fellow-workers  of  Voltaire, 
although  one  or  two  of  them  were  personally  little 
known  to  him  ;  whose  aim  was  his  aim,  to  destroy 
from  among  the  people  '  ignorance,  the  curse  of 
God,'  and  who  were,  as  he  was,  the  prophets  and 
the  makers  of  a  new  dispensation 

That  many  of  these  light  bringers  were  them- 
selves full  of  darkness,  is  true  enough ;  but  they 
brought  the  light  not  the  less,  and  in  their  own 



breasts  burnt  one  cleansing  flame,  the  passion  for 

For  the  rest,  they  were  the  typical  men  of  the 
most  enthralling  age  in  history — each  with  his 
human  story  as  well  as  his  public  purpose,  and  his 
part  to  play  on  the  glittering  stage  of  the  social 
life  of  old  France,  as  well  as  in  the  great  events 
which  moulded  her  destiny  and  affected  the  fate  of 

Foremost  among  them  was  d'Alembert. 

Often  talked  about  but  little  known,  or  vaguely 
remembered  only  as  the  patient  lover  of  Made- 
moiselle de  Lespinasse,  Jean  Lerond  d'Alembert, 
the  successor  of  Newton,  the  author  of  the  Preface 
of  the  Encyclopaedia,  deserves  an  enduring  fame. 

On  a  November  evening  in  the  year  1717,  one 
hundred  and  eighty-nine  years  ago,  a  gendarme^ 
going  his  round  in  Paris,  discovered  on  the  steps 
of  the  church  of  Saint-Jean  Lerond,  once  the 
baptistery  of  Notre-Dame,  a  child  of  a  few  hours 
old.  The  story  runs  that  the  baby  was  richly  clad, 
and  had  on  his  small  person  marks  which  would 
lead  to  his  identification.  But  the  fact  remains 
that  he  was  abandoned  in  mid-winter,  left  without 
food  or  shelter  to  take  his  feeble  chance  of  life  and 
of  the  cold  charity  of  some  such  institution  as  the 
Enfants  Trouv^s.     It  was  no  thanks  to  the  mother 


who  bore  him  that  the  gendarme  who  found  him 
had  compassion  on  his  helpless  infancy.  The 
man  had  the  baby  hurriedly  christened  after  his 
first  cradle,  Jean  Baptiste  Lerond,  took  him  to  a 
working  woman  whom  he  could  trust,  and  who 
nursed  him — ^for  six  weeks  say  some  authorities, 
for  a  few  days  say  others — in  the  little  village  of 
Cremery  near  Montdidier. 

At  the  end  of  the  time  there  returned  to  Paris 
a  certain  gallant  General  Destouches,  who  had 
been  abroad  in  the  execution  of  his  military 
duties.  He  went  to  visit  Madame  de  Tencin,  and 
from  her  learnt  of  the  birth  and  the  abandonment 
of  their  son. 

No  study  of  the  eighteenth  century  can  be 
complete  without  mention  of  the  extraordinary 
women  who  were  born  with  that  marvellous  age, 
and  fortunately  died  with  it.  Cold,  calculating, 
and  corrupt,  with  the  devilish  cleverness  of  a 
Machiavelli,  with  the  natural  instinct  of  love  used 
for  gain  and  for  trickery,  and  with  the  natural 
instinct  of  maternity  wholly  absent,  d'Alembert's 
mother  was  the  most  perfect  type  of  this  monstrous 
class.  Small,  keen,  alert,  with  a  little  sharp  face 
like  a  bird's,  brilliantly  eloquent,  bold,  subtle, 
tireless,  a  great  minister  of  intrigue,  and  insatiably 
ambitious — such  was  Madame  de  Tencin.  It  was 
she  who  assisted  at  the  meetings  of  statesmen,  and 

B  2 


gave  Marshal  Eichelieu  a  plan  and  a  line  of  con- 
duct. It  was  she  who  managed  the  afiairs  of  her 
brother  Cardinal  de  Tencin,  and,  through  him, 
tried  to  effect  peace  between  France  and  Frederick 
in  the  midst  of  the  Seven  Years'  War.  It  was  she 
who  fought  the  hideous  incompetence  of  Maurepas, 
the  Naval  Minister ;  and  it  was  she  who  summed 
herself  up  to  FonteneUe  when  she  laid  her  hand 
on  her  heart,  saying,  '  Here  is  nothing  but  brain.' 

From  the  moment  of  his  birth  she  had  only 
one  wish  with  regard  to  her  child — to  be  rid  of 
him.  A  long  procession  of  lovers  had  left  her 
wholly  incapable  of  shame.  But  the  child  would 
be  a  worry — and  she  did  not  mean  to  be  worried  ! 
If  the  father  had  better  instincts — well,  let  him 
follow  them.  He  did.  He  employed  Molin, 
Madame  de  Tencin's  doctor,  to  find  out  the  baby's 
nurse,  Anne  Lemaire,  and  claim  the  little  creature 
from  her. 

The  great  d'Alembert  told  Madame  Suard  many 
years  after  how  Destouches  drove  all  round  Paris 
with  the  baby  ('  with  a  head  no  bigger  than  an 
apple')  in  his  arms,  trying  to  find  for  him  a 
suitable  foster-mother.  But  little  Jean  Baptiste 
Lerond  seemed  to  be  dying,  and  no  one  would 
take  him.  At  last,  however,  Destouches  dis- 
covered, living  in  the  Kue  Michel-Lecomte,  a  poor 
glazier's  wife,  whose  motherly  soul  was  touched  by 


the  infant's  piteous  plight,  and  who  took  him  to  her 
love  and  care,  and  kept  him  there  for  fifty  years. 

History  has  concerned  itself  much  less  with 
Madame  Kousseau  than  with  Madame  de  Tencin. 
Yet  it  was  the  glazier's  wife  who  was  d'Alem- 
bert's  real  mother  after  all.  If  she  was  low- 
born and  ignorant,  she  had  yet  the  happiest  of 
all  acquirements — she  knew  how  to  win  love  and 
to  keep  it.  The  great  d'Alembert,  universally 
acclaimed  as  one  of  the  first  intellects  of  Europe, 
had  ever  for  this  simple  person,  who  defined  a 
philosopher  as  '  a  fool  who  torments  himself  during 
his  life  that  people  may  talk  of  him  when  he  is 
dead,'  the  tender  reverence  which  true  greatness, 
and  only  true  greatness  perhaps,  can  bear  towards 
homely  goodness.  From  her  he  learnt  the  bless- 
ing of  peace  and  obscurity.  From  his  association 
with  her  he  learnt  his  noble  idea — difficult  in  any 
age,  but  in  that  age  of  degrading  luxury  and  self- 
indulgence  well  nigh  impossible — that  it  is  sinful 
to  enjoy  superfluities  while  other  men  want 
necessaries.  His  hidden  life  in  the  dark  attic 
above  her  husband's  shop  made  it  possible  for  him 
to  do  that  life's  work.  For  nearly  half  a  century 
he  knew  no  other  home.  When  he  left  her  roof  at 
last,  in  obedience  to  the  voice  of  the  most  master- 
ful of  all  human  passions,  he  still  retained  for  her 
the  tenderest  affection,  and  bestowed  upon  her  and 


her  grandchildren  the  kindness  of  one  or  the  kindest 
hearts  that  ever  beautified  a  great  intelligence. 

Little  Jean  Baptiste  was  put  to  a  school  in 
the  Faubourg  Saint- Antoine,  where  he  passed  as 
Madame  Kousseau's  son.  General  Destouches  paid 
the  expenses  of  this  schooling,  took  a  keen  pleasure 
in  the  child's  brightness  and  precocity,  and  came 
often  to  see  him.  One  day  he  persuaded  Madame 
de  Tencin  to  accompany  him.  The  seven-year-old 
Jean  Baptiste  remembered  that  scene  all  his  life. 
'  Confess,  Madame,'  says  Destouches,  when  they 
had  listened  to  the  boy's  clever  answers  to  his 
master's  questions,  '  that  it  was  a  pity  to  abandon 
such  a  child.'  Madame  rose  at  once.  '  Let  us  go. 
I  see  it  is  going  to  be  verj^  uncomfortable  for 
me  here.'     She  never  came  again. 

Destouches  died  in  1726,  when  his  son  was 
nine  years  old.  He  left  the  boy  twelve  hundred 
livres,  and  commended  him  to  the  care  of  his 
relatives.  Through  them,  at  the  age  of  twelve, 
Jean  Baptiste  received  the  great  favour  of  being 
admitted  to  the  College  of  the  Four  Nations, 
founded  by  Mazarin,  and  in  1729  the  most  ex- 
clusive school  in  France.  Fortunately  for  its  new 
scholar  it  was  something  besides  fashionable,  and 
did  its  best  to  satisfy  his  extraordinary  thirst  for 
knowledge.  His  teachers  were  all  priests  and 
Jansenists,   and  nourished   their    apt  scholar  on 


Jansenist  literature,  imbuing  him  with  the  fashion- 
able theories  of  Descartes.  How  soon  was  it  that 
they  began  to  hope  and  dream  that  in  the  gentle 
student  called  Lerond,  living  on  a  narrow  pit- 
tance above  a  tradesman's  shop,  they  had  found 
a  new  Pascal,  a  mighty  enemy  of  the  Archfiend 
Jesuitism  ? 

But  beneath  his  timid  and  modest  exterior 
there  lay  already  an  intellect  of  marvellous 
strength  and  clearness,  a  relentless  logic  that 
tested  and  weighed  every  principle  instilled  in 
him,  every  theory  masquerading  as  a  fact.  He 
quickly  became  equally  hostile  to  both  Jesuit  and 
Jansenist.  It  was  at  school  that  he  learnt  to  hate 
with  an  undying  hatred,  religion — the  religion 
that  in  forty  years  launched,  on  account  of  the 
Bull  Unigenitus,  forty  thousand  lettres  de  cachet, 
that  made  men  forget  not  only  their  Christianity 
but  their  humanity,  and  give  themselves  over 
body  and  soul  to  the  devouring  fever  called 
fanaticism.  At  school  also  he  conceived  his 
passion  for  mathematics,  that  love  of  exact  truth 
which  no  Jansenist  priest,  however  subtle,  could 
make  him  regard  as  a  dangerous  error. 

When  he  was  eighteen,  in  1735,  he  took  his 
degree  of  Bachelor  of  Arts  and  changed  his  name. 
D'Alembertis  thought  to  be  an  anagram  on  Baptiste 
Lerond.     Anaejrams   were    fashionable,   and   one 


Arouet,  who  had  elected  to  be  called  Voltaire,  had 
made  such  an  alteration  of  good  omen.  D'Alembert 
went  on  studying  at  the  College,  but  throughout 
his  studies  mathematics  were  wooing  him  from  all 
other  pursuits.  The  taste,  however,  was  so  unlu- 
crative,  and  the  income  from  twelve  hundred  livres 
so  small,  that  a  profession  became  a  necessity. 
The  young  man  conscientiously  qualified  for  a 
barrister.  But  '  he  loved  only  good  causes '  and 
was  naturally  shy.  He  never  appeared  at  the  Bar. 
Then  he  bethought  him  of  medicine.  He 
would  be  a  doctor!  But  again  and  again  the 
siren  voice  of  his  dominant  taste  called  him 
back  to  her.  His  friends — those  omniscient 
friends  always  ready  to  put  a  spoke  in  the  wheel 
of  genius — entreated  him  to  be  practical,  to  re- 
member his  poverty,  and  to  make  haste  to  grow 
rich.  He  yielded  to  them  so  far  that  one  day  he 
carried  all  his  geometrical  books  to  one  of  their 
houses,  and  went  back  to  the  garret  at  Madame 
Eousseau's  to  study  medicine  and  nothing  else  in 
the  world.  But  the  geometrical  problems  dis- 
turbed his  sleep. 

One  master-passion  in  the  breast, 

Like  Aaron's  serpent,  swallowed  all  the  rest. 

Fate  wanted  d'Alembert,  the  great  mathematician, 
not  some  prosperous,  unproductive  mediocrity  of 
a   Paris   apothecary.     The   crowning   blessing  of 


life,  to  be  born  with  a  bias  to  some  pursuit,  was 
this  man's  to  the  full. 

He  yielded  to  Nature  and  to  God.  He  brought 
back  the  books  he  had  abandoned,  flung  aside 
those  for  which  he  had  neither  taste  nor  aptitude, 
and  at  twenty  gave  himself  to  the  work  for  which 
he  had  been  created. 

Some  artist  should  put  on  canvas  the  picture 
of  this  student,  sitting  in  his  ill-aired  garret  with 
its  narrow  prospect  of  '  three  ells  of  sky,'  poor, 
delicate,  obscure — or  rich,  rather,  in  the  purest  of 
earthly  enjoyments,  the  pursuit  of  truth  for  its 
own  sake.  He  could  not  afford  to  buy  many  of 
the  books  he  needed,  so  he  borrowed  them  from 
public  libraries.  He  left  the  work  of  the  day 
anticipating  with  joy  the  work  of  the  morrow. 
For  the  world  he  cared  nothing,  and  of  him  it 
knew  nothing.  Fame  ? — he  did  not  want  it. 
Wealth? — he  could  do  without  it.  Poor  as  he 
was,  there  was  no  time  when  he  even  thought  of 
taking  pupils,  or  using  the  leisure  he  needed  for 
study  in  making  money  by  a  professorship. 

To  give  knowledge  was  his  work  and  his  aim  ; 
to  make  knowledge  easier  for  others  he  left  to 
some  lesser  man.  His  style  had  seldom  the  grace 
and  clearness  which  can  make,  and  which  in  many 
of  his  fellow-workers  did  make,  the  abstrusest 
reasoning   charm  like  romance.     D'Alembert  left 


Diderot  to  put  his  thought  into  irresistible  words, 
and  Voltaire  and  Turgot  to  translate  it  into  im- 
mortal deeds. 

When  he  was  two-and-twenty,  in  1739,  d'Alem- 
bert  began  his  connection  with  the  Academy  of 
Sciences.  In  1743  he  published  his  '  Treatise  on 
Dynamics.'  Now  little  read  and  long  superseded, 
it  placed  him  at  one  bound,  and  at  six-and-twenty 
years  old,  among  the  first  geometricians  of  Europe. 
Modest,  frugal,  retiring  as  he  was  and  remained,  he 
was  no  more  only  the  loving  and  patient  disciple  of 
science.  He  was  its  master  and  teacher.  In  1746 
his  '  Treatise  on  the  Theory  of  Winds '  gained  him 
a  prize  in  the  Academy  of  Berlin,  and  first  brought 
him  into  relationship  with  Frederick  the  Great. 

Two  years  later,  when  her  son  was  of  daily 
growing  renown,  Madame  de  Tencin  died.  The 
story  that,  when  he  had  become  famous  and  she 
would  fain  have  acknowledged  him,  he  had  re- 
pudiated her,  saying  he  had  no  mother  but  the 
glazier's  wife,  d'Alembert,  declares  Madame  Suard, 
always  denied.  '  I  should  never  have  refused  her 
endearments — it  would  have  been  too  sweet  to  me 
to  recover  her.'  That  answer  is  more  in  keeping 
with  a  temperament  but  too  gentle  and  forgiving, 
than  the  spirited  repulse.  It  was  in  keeping 
also  with  the  life  of  Madame  de  Tencin  that 
even  death  should  leave  her  indifferent   to  her 


child.  She  thought  no  more  of  him,  he  said,  in 
the  one  than  in  the  other.  Her  money  she  left  to 
her  doctor. 

If  the  studious  poverty  oi  the  life  in  the 
glazier's  attic  spared  d'Alembert  acquaintances, 
it  did  not  deprive  him  of  friends. 

Then  living  in  Paris,  some  six-and-thirty  years 
old,  the  author  of  the  'Philosophical  Thoughts,' 
and  the  most  fascinating  scoundrel  in  France,  was 
Denis  Diderot.  With  the  quiet  d'Alembert,  of 
morals  almost  austere  and  of  hidden,  frugal  life, 
what  could  a  Diderot  have  in  common?  Some- 
thing more  than  the  attraction  of  opposites  drew 
them  together.  The  vehement  and  all-embracing 
imagination  of  the  one  iired  the  calm  reason  of  the 
other.  The  hot  head  and  the  cool  one  were  laid 
together,  and  the  result  was  the  great  Encyclo- 

The  first  idea  of  the  pair  was  modest  enough — 
to  translate  into  French  the  English  Encyclopaedia 
of  Chambers.  But  had  not  brother  Voltaire  said 
that  no  man  who  could  make  an  adequate  trans- 
lation ever  wasted  his  time  in  translating  ?  They 
soon  out-ran  so  timid  an  ambition.  The  thing 
must  not  only  be  spontaneous  work ;  it  must 
wholly  surpass  all  its  patterns  and  prototypes.  It 
must  be  not  an  Encyclopsedia,  but  the  Encyclo- 
paedia.    Every  man  of  talent  in  France  must  bring 


a  stone  towards  the  building  of  the  great  Temple. 
From  Switzerland,  old  Voltaire  shall  pour  forth 
inspiration,  encouragement,  incentive.  Eousseau 
shall  lend  it  the  glow  of  his  passion,  and  Grimm 
his  journalistic  versatility.  Helvetius  shall  contri- 
bute— d'Holbach,  Turgot,  Morellet,  Marmontel, 
Eaynal,  La  Harpe,  de  Jaucourt,  Duclos. 

And  the   Preliminary  Discourse  shall  be  the 
work  of  d'Alembert. 

An  envious  enemy  once  dismissed  him  scorn- 
fully as 

Chancelier  de  Parnasse, 

Qui  se  croit  un  grand  homme  et  fit  une  preface. 

Yet  if  he  had  written  nothing  but  that  Preface 
he  would  still  have  had  noble  titles  to  fame.  It 
contained,  as  he  himself  said,  the  quintessence  of 
twenty  years'  study.  If  his  style  was  usually  cold 
and  formal,  it  was  not  so  now.  With  warmest 
eloquence  and  boldest  brush  he  painted  the  picture 
of  the  progress  of  the  human  mind  since  the  in- 
vention of  printing.  From  the  lofty  heights  man's 
intellect  had  scaled  there  stood  out  yet  mightier 
heights  for  him  to  dare !  Advance !  advance !  It 
ever  preface  said  anything,  the  Preface  to  the 
great  Encyclopaedia  says  this.  Clothed  with  light 
and  fire,  that  dearest  son  of  d'Alembert's  genius 
went  forth  to  illuminate  and  to  astound  the  world. 
At  first  the  Encyclopaedia  was  not  only  heard 


gladly  by  the  common  people,  but  was  splendidly 
set  forth  with  the  approbation  and  Privilege  du 
Roi.  Even  the  wise  and  thoughtful  melancholy  of 
d'Alembert's  temperament  may  have  been  cheered 
by  such  good  fortune,  while  the  sanguine  Diderot 
naturally  felt  convinced  it  would  last  for  ever. 

Both  worked  unremittingly.  His  authorship 
of  the  Preface  immediately  flung  open  to  d'Alem- 
bert  all  the  salons  in  Paris,  and  for  the  first  time 
in  his  life  he  began  to  go  into  society.  Then 
Frederick  the  Great  made  him  a  rich  and  splendid 
offer,  the  Presidency  of  the  Berlin  Academy.  Con- 
sider that  though  the  man  was  famous  he  was  still 
very  poor.  The  little  pension  which  was  his  all 
'  is  hardly  enough  to  keep  me  if  I  have  the  happi- 
ness or  the  misfortune  to  live  to  be  old.'  From  the 
Government  of  his  country  he  feared  everything 
and  hoped  nothing.  He  was  only  thirty-five  years 
of  age.  A  new  world  was  opened  to  him.  The 
glazier's  attic  he  could  exchange  for  a  palace,  and 
the  homely  kindness  of  an  illiterate  foster-mother 
for  the  magnificent  endearments  of  a  philosophic 
king.  Was  it  only  the  painful  example  of  friend 
Voltaire's  angry  wretchedness  as  Frederick's  guest 
that  made  him  refuse  an  offer  so  lavish  and  so 
dazzling  ?  It  was  rather  that  he  had  the  rare  wis- 
dom to  recognise  happiness  when  he  had  it  and  did 
not  mistake  it  for  some  phantom  will-o'-the-wisp 


whom  distance  clothed  with  light.  *The  peace 
I  enjoy  is  so  perfect,'  he  wrote,  '  I  dare  run 
no  risk  of  disturbing  it.  ...  I  do  not  doubt  the 
King's  goodness  .  .  .  only  that  the  conditions 
essential  to  happiness  are  not  in  his  power.' 

Any  man  who  is  offered  in  place  of  quiet  con- 
tent that  most  fleeting  and  unsubstantial  of  all 
chimeras — fame  and  glory — should  read  d'Alem- 
bert's  answer  to  Frederick  the  Great. 

Frederick's  royal  response  to  it  was  the  offer  of 
a  pension  of  twelve  hundred  livres. 

In  September  1754  the  fourth  volume  of  the 
Encyclopaedia  was  hailed  by  the  world  with  a 
burst  of  enthusiasm  and  applause,  and  in  the  Decem- 
ber of  that  year  d'Alembert  received  as  a  reward  for 
his  indefatigable  labours  a  chair  in  the  French 
Academy.  He  had  only  accepted  it  on  condition 
that  he  spoke  his  mind  freely  on  all  points  and 
made  court  to  no  man.  The  speech  with  which 
he  took  his  seat,  though  constantly  interrupted 
with  clapping  and  cries  of  delight,  was  not  good, 
said  Grimm.  All  d'Alembert's  addresses  and  eloges 
spoken  at  the  Academy  leave  posterity,  indeed, 
as  cold  as  they  left  the  astute  German  journalist. 
The  man  was  a  mathematician,  a  creature  of 
reason.  The  passion  that  was  to  rule  that  reason 
and  dominate  his  Hfe  was  not  the  gaudy  and 
shallow  passion  of  the  orator. 


In  1756  he  went  to  stay  with  the  great  head  of 
his  party,  Voltaire,  at  the  DeHces,  near  Geneva. 
The  Patriarch  was  sixty-two  years  old,  but  with 
the  activity  and  the  enthusiasm  of  youth.  At  his 
house  and  at  his  table  d'Alembert  met  constantly 
and  observed  deeply  the  Calvinistic  pastors  of 
Geneva.  He  returned  to  Paris  with  his  head 
full  of  the  most  famous  article  the  Encyclopaedia 
was  to  know.  At  the  back  of  his  mind  was  a 
certain  request  of  his  host's,  that  he  should  also 
make  a  few  remarks  on  the  benefits  that  play-acting 
would  confer  on  the  Calvinistic  temperament. 

No  article  in  that  'huge  folio  dictionary' 
brewed  so  fierce  a  storm  or  had  consequences  so 
memorable  and  far-reaching  as  d'Alembert's  article 
'Geneva.'  In  his  reserved  and  formal  style  he 
punctiliously  complimented  the  descendants  of 
Calvin  as  preferring  reason  to  faith,  sound  sense  to 
dogma,  and  as  having  a  religion  which,  weighed 
and  tested,  was  nothing  but  a  perfect  Socinianism. 
Voltaire  laughed  long  in  his  sleeve,  and  in  private 
executed  moral  capers  of  delight.  The  few  words 
on  the  advantages  of  play-acting,  which  he  had 
begged  might  be  added,  had  not  been  forgotten. 

The  Genevan  pastors  took  solemn  and  heartburn- 
ing counsel  together,  and  on  the  head  of  the  quiet 
worker  in  the  attic  in  Paris  there  burst  a  hurricane 
which  might  have   beaten  down  coarser  natures 


and  frightened  stouter  hearts.  Calvinism  fell  upon 
him,  whose  sole  crime  had  been  to  show  her  the 
logical  outcome  of  her  doctrines,  with  the  fierce 
fury  of  a  desperate  cause.  Ketract!  retract!  or 
at  least  give  the  names  of  those  of  our  pastors  who 
made  you  believe  in  the  rationalism  of  our  creed ! 
As  for  the  remarks  on  plays,  why,  Jean  Jacques 
Eousseau,  our  citizen  and  your  brother  philo- 
sopher, shall  answer  those,  and  in  the  dazzling 
rhetoric  of  the  immortal  'Letter  on  Plays'  give, 
with  all  the  magic  and  enchantment  of  his  sophist's 
genius,  the  case  against  the  theatre. 

Then,  on  March  8,  1759,  the  paternal  govern- 
ment of  France,  joining  hands  with  Geneva,  sup- 
pressed by  royal  edict  that  Encyclopaedia  of  which 
a  very  few  years  earlier  it  had  solemnly  approved. 
The  accursed  thing  was  burnt  by  the  hangman. 
The  printers  and  publishers  were  sent  to  the 
galleys  or  to  death.  The  permit  to  continue 
pubHshing  the  work  was  rescinded.  The  full 
flowing  fountain  of  knowledge  was  dammed, 
and  the  self-denial  of  d'Alembert's  patient  life 
wasted.  The  gentle  heart,  which  had  never 
harmed  living  creature,  fell  stricken  beneath  the 
torrent  of  filthy  fury  which  the  gutter  press 
poured  upon  him.  His  Majesty  — his  besotted 
Majesty,  King  Louis  the  Fifteenth — finds  in  the 
Encyclopaedia,  forsooth,  '  maxims    tending  to  de- 


stroy  Eoyal  authority  and  to  establish  indepen- 
dence .  .  .  corruption  of  morals,  irreligion,  and 
unbelief.'  Sycophant  and  toadying  Paris  went 
with  him.  Furious  and  blaspheming,  passionate 
Diderot  came  out  to  meet  the  foe.  Dancing  with 
rage,  old  Voltaire  at  Delices  could  only  calm  him- 
self enough  to  hold  a  pen  in  his  shaking  fingers 
and  pour  out  incentives  to  his  brothers  in  Paris  to 
fight  till  the  death.  To  him  injustice  was  ever  the 
bugle-call  to  battle.  But  not  to  d'Alembert.  He 
shrank  back  into  his  shell,  dumb  and  wounded. 
'  I  do  not  know  if  the  Encyclopedia  will  be  con- 
tinued,' he  wrote,  '  but  I  am  sure  it  will  not 
be  continued  by  me.'  Even  the  stirring  incite- 
ments of  his  chief  could  not  alter  his  purpose. 
He  had  offered  sight  to  the  blind,  and  they  had 
chosen  darkness ;  he  would  bring  them  the  light 
no  more.  That  Diderot  considered  him  traitor 
and  apostate  did  not  move  him.  He  would  not 
quarrel  with  that  affectionate,  hot-headed  brother 
worker,  but  for  himself  that  chapter  of  his  life  was 
finished,  and  he  turned  the  page. 

In  the  very  same  year  he  gave  to  a  thankless 
world  his  '  Elements  of  Philosophy  ; '  and  he  again 
refused  Frederick  the  Great's  invitation  to  ex- 
change persecuting  Paris  for  the  Presidency  of  the 
Berlin  Academy.     But  there  was  no  reason  why 



he  should  not  escape  from  his  troubles  for  a  time 
and  become  Frederick's  visitor. 

In  1762  he  went  to  Berlin  for  two  months,  and 
found  the  great  King  a  clever,  generous,  and 
devoted  friend.  But  though  he  continued  to  beg 
d'Alembert  to  stay  with  him  permanently,  and 
was  lavish  of  gifts  and  promises,  the  wise  and 
judicious  visitor  was  wholly  proof  against  the 
royal  blandishments.  In  the  same  year  he  refused 
a  yet  more  dazzling  offer — to  be  tutor  to  Catherine 
the  Great's  son.  He  had  already  in  Paris,  not 
only  ties,  which  might  be  broken,  but  a  tie,  which 
he  found  indissoluble. 

In  1765,  three  years  after  Catherine's  offer  had 
been  made  and  declined,  d'Alembert,  when  he  was 
forty-eight  years  old,  was  attacked  by  a  severe 
illness,  which,  said  his  accommodating  doctor, 
required  larger  and  airier  rooms  than  those 
in  his  good  old  nurse's  home.  He  was  moved 
from  the  famihar  Eue  Michel-Lecomte  to  the 
Boulevard  du  Temple.  There  Mademoiselle  de 
Lespinasse  joined  him  and  nursed  him  back  to 

In  all  the  story  of  d'Alembert's  life,  in  that 
age  of  unbridled  licence,  no  woman's  name  is  con- 
nected with  his  save  this  one's.  Fifteen  years 
earlier  he  had  made  the  acquaintance  of  Madame 
du  Deffand.     To  the  blind   old   worldling,  who 


loved  Horace  Walpole  and  wrote  immortal  letters, 
he  stood  in  the  nature  of  a  dear  and  promising 
son.  For  many  years  he  was  always  about  her 
house.  His  wit  and  his  charm,  seasoned  by  a 
gentle  spice  of  irony  and  a  delightful  talent  for 
telling  stories  and  enjoying  them  himself,  naturally 
endeared  him  to  the  old  woman  whose  one  hell 
was  boredom.  On  his  side,  he  came  because  he 
liked  her,  and  stayed  because  he  loved  Mademoi- 
selle de  Lespinasse.  The  history  of  that  menage^ 
of  the  brilliant,  impulsive,  undisciplined  girl,  with 
her  plain  face  and  her  matchless  charm,  and  of  the 
blind  old  woman  she  tended,  deceived,  and  out- 
witted, has  been  told  in  fiction  as  well  as  in  his- 
tory. How  when  Madame  du  Deffand  was  asleep, 
her  poor  companion  held  for  herself  reunions  of 
the  bright,  particular  stars  of  her  mistress's  firma- 
ment, and  how  the  old  woman,  rising  a  little  too 
early  one  day,  came  into  the  room  and  with  her 
sightless  eyes  saw  all,  is  one  of  the  famihar  anec- 
dotes of  literature. 

Long  before  this  dramatic  denouement^  d'Alem- 
bert  and  Julie  de  Lespinasse  had  been  something 
more  than  friends.  But  now  Mademoiselle  saw 
herself  cast  adrift  on  the  world.  She  flung  to  it 
her  reputation,  and  yielded,  not  so  much  to  the  en- 
treaties of  d'Alembert's  love,  as  to  the  more  pitiful 
pleading  his  solitude  and  sickness  made  to  the 

c  2 


warm  maternity  in  her  woman's  heart.  She  nursed 
him  back  to  convalescence,  and  then  lived  beneath 
the  same  roof  with  him  in  the  Eue  Belle  Chasse. 

Picture  the  man  with  his  wide,  wise  intelli- 
gence and  his  diffident  and  gentle  nature,  and  the 
woman  with  her  brilliant  intuition  and  her  quick, 
glowing  impulse.  To  his  exact  logic  she  could 
add  feeling,  passion,  sympathy ;  his  frigid  and 
awkward  style  she  could  endow  with  life  and  fire. 
Many  of  his  manuscripts  are  covered  with  her 
handwriting.  Some,  she  certainly  inspired.  She 
had  read  widely  and  felt  keenly,  and  her  lover  had 
weighed,  pondered,  considered.  For  him,  who  had 
for  himself  no  ambition,  she  could  dare  and  hope 
all.  The  perpetual  Secretaryship  of  the  Academy 
shall  be  turned  from  a  dream  to  a  fact !  In  that 
age  of  women's  influence  no  woman  had  in  her  frail 
hands  more  to  give  and  to  withhold  than  this  poor 
companion,  whose  marvellous  power  over  men  and 
destinies  lay  not  in  her  head,  but  in  her  heart. 
The  true  complement  of  a  d'Alembert,  daring  where 
he  was  timid,  fervent  where  he  was  cold,  a  woman's 
feeling  to  quicken  his  man's  reason — here  should 
have  been  indeed  the  marriage  of  true  minds. 

Oh,  I  must  feel  your  brain  prompt  mine, 
Your  heart  anticipate  my  heart. 
You  must  be  just  before,  in  fine. 
See  and  make  me  see,  for  your  part, 
New  depths  of  the  divine  ! 


Yet  d'Alembert's  is  the  most  piteous  love-story 
in  history.  If  Mademoiselle  had  yielded  to  his 
sadness  and  his  loneliness,  she  had  never  loved 
him.  Only  a  year  after  she  had  joined  him, 
d'Alembert,  alluding  to  some  rumours  which  had 
been  afloat  concerning  their  marriage,  wrote  bit- 
terly, '  What  should  /do  with  a  wife  and  children  ? ' 
But  there  was  only  one  real  obstacle  to  their 
union.  Across  Mademoiselle's  undisciplined  heart 
there  lay  already  the  shadows  of  another  passion. 

From  the  first  the  household  in  the  Kue 
Belle  Chasse  had  been  absolutely  dominated  by 
the  woman.  '  In  love,  who  loves  least,  rules.' 
D'Alembert  was  in  bondage  while  she  was  free. 
To  keep  her,  he  submitted  to  humours  full  of 
bitterness  and  sharpness — the  caprices  of  that  in- 
different affection  which  gives  nothing  and  exacts 
all.  In  her  hands,  he  was  as  a  child ;  his  philo- 
sophies went  to  the  winds ;  his  very  reason  was 
prostrate.  How  soon  was  it  he  began  to  guess  he 
had  a  rival  in  her  heart  ? 

It  was  not  till  after  her  death  that  he  found 
out  for  certain  that  less  than  two  years  after  she 
came  to  him  she  had  given  herself,  body  and  soul, 
to  the  young  Marquis  de  Mora.  But  what  he 
did  not  know,  he  must  have  greatly  suspected. 
It  was  he  who  wrote  her  letters  and  ran  her 
errands.      Grimm    recorded     in    the    '  Literary 


Correspondence '  the  prodigious  ascendency  she 
had  acquired  over  all  his  thoughts  and  actions. 
'  No  luckless  Savoyard  of  Paris  .  .  .  does  so  many 
wearisome  commissions  as  the  first  geometrician 
of  Europe,  the  chief  of  the  Encyclopa3dic  sect,  the 
dictator  of  our  Academies,  does  for  Mademoiselle.' 
He  would  post  her  fervent  outpourings  to  the  man 
who  had  supplanted  him,  and  call  for  the  replies 
at  the  post-office  that  she  might  receive  them  an 
hour  or  two  earlier.  What  wonder  that  over  such 
a  character,  a  nature  like  Mademoiselle's  rode 
roughshod,  that  she  hurt  and  bruised  him  a  hun- 
dred times  a  day,  and  wounded  while  she  despised 
him  ?  No  woman  ever  truly  loves  a  man  who  does 
not  exact  from  her  not  only  complete  fidelity  to 
himself,  but  fidelity  to  all  that  is  best  and  highest 
in  her  own  nature. 

D'Alembert  had  indeed  in  full  measure  the 
virtue  of  his  defects.  If  it  was  a  crime  to  be  tender 
to  her  sins,  it  was  nobihty  to  be  gentle  to  her 
sufferings.  He  bore  and  forbore  with  her  end- 
lessly. Always  patient  and  good-humoured,  think- 
ing greatly  of  her  and  httle  of  himself,  abundant 
in  compassion  for  her  ruined  nerves  and  the 
querulous  feverishness  of  her  ill  health — here 
surely  were  some  of  the  noble  traits  of  a  good 
love.  He  read  to  her,  watched  by  her,  tended  her, 
and  in  the  matchless  society  they  gathered  round 


them  was  abundantly  content  to  be  nothing,  that 
she  might  be  all. 

Their  life  together  in  the  Eue  Belle  Chase 
had  not  in  the  least  shocked  their  easy-going 
world.  Many  persons  comfortably  maintained 
that  their  association  was  the  merest  friendship — 
heedless  of  that  amply  proven  fact  that  where 
people  avoid  evil,  they  avoid  also  the  appearance 
of  evil.  The  eighteenth  century,  indeed,  even  if 
it  saw  any  difference  between  vice  and  virtue, 
which  is  doubtful,  did  not  in  the  least  mind  if  its 
favourites  were  vicious  or  virtuous,  provided  they 
were  not  dull.  D'Alembert  and  Mademoiselle  de 
Lespinasse  did  not  fall  under  that  ban.  The  her- 
mit life  the  man  had  led  was  over  for  ever.  In  her 
modest  room  in  that  dingy  street,  Mademoiselle 
held  every  night  the  most  famous  salon  in  Paris. 

Most  of  the  salons  may  be  exhaustively  de- 
scribed as  having  been  nourished  on  a  little  eau 
Sucre  and  a  great  deal  of  wit.  But  to  this  one  wit 
alone  was  light,  food,  and  air.  Mademoiselle  did 
not  require  to  give  dinners  like  Madame  Necker, 
or  suppers  like  Madame  du  Deffand ;  neither  for 
the  beauty  which,  later,  was  to  make  men  for- 
give the  mental  limitations  of  Madame  Eecamier, 
had  she  need  or  use.  Tall,  pale,  and  slender, 
with  her  infinite,  unconscious  tact,  her  mental 
grace,   and  her    divine    sympathy,   her    passage 


^^ough  the  social  life  of  her  age  has  left  the 

'Abtle  perfume  of  some  delicate  flower.     To  be  her 

i^end  was  to  feel  complete,  understood,  satisfied. 

fc  her,   as    to    a    sister    of    consolation,    came 

fcndorcet,  marquis,  mathematician,  philosopher; 

-^fent-Pierre,  the  pupil  of  Eousseau  and  the  creator 

^'  '  Paul  and  Virginia  ; '   La  Harpe,  whom   she 

'^vS  to  help  to  the  Academy ;  Henault,  whom  she 

hd  charmed  from  Madame  du  DefFand ;  Turgot, 

'^astellux,    Marmontel.      And    quietly    effacing 

himself,  with  that  true  greatness  which  is  never 

;4?aid  to  be  made  of  little  account,  was  Mademoi- 

if^fte's  lover  and  the  noblest  intellect  of  them  all, 


There  is  no  more  delightful  trait  in  his  charac- 
ter than  this  exquisite  talent  for  modesty.  With 
his  spare  form  always  dressed  from  head  to  foot 
in  clothes  of  one  colour,  the  aim  of  d'Alembert 
was  both  physically  and  mentally,  as  it  were,  to 
escape  notice.  True,  when  he  talked,  the  listener 
must  needs  marvel  at  the  breadth,  the  variety,  the 
exhaustless  interests  of  the  mind,  and  its  perfect 
simplicity  and  straightforwardness.  But  he  did 
not  want  to  talk  much.  He  liked  better  to  listen. 
He  preferred  in  society,  as  he  preferred  in  life, 
to  think  while  other  men  said  and  did. 

No  social  pleasures  could  either  supersede  the 
work  of  his  life,  or  make  compensation  for  the 


sorrows  of  his  soul.     He  had  already  thrown  i 
his  lot  with  Mademoiselle  when  he  published  th 
most  daring  of  all  his  books,  '  The  History  of  th 
Destruction  of  the  Jesuits.'     Her  treachery  hfhi 
shattered  his  life  for  five  years,  when  he  a.ske< 
Frederick  the  Great  for  a  sum  of  money  Ts^hic 
would  enable  him  to  travel  and  heal  his  broke 
health  and  heart.     In  1770,  with  young  Condorc 
for  his  companion,  he  left  Paris  for  Italy,  stoppc 
at  Ferney,  and  spent  his  whole  leave  of  abfsenr 
with  Voltaire. 

It  was  an  oasis  in  the  desert  of  the  feveri 
existence  to  which  he  had  condemned  himself, 
mighty  speculation,  in  splendid  visions  of 
future  of  the  race,  in  passionate  argument  on  the 
immortality  of  the  soul  and  the  being  and  nature 
of  God,  he  forgot  his  personal  sorrows.  The  mind 
dominated  and  the  heart  was  still.  What  nights 
the  three  must  have  spent  together — Voltaire  with 
his  octogenarian's  intellect  as  keen  and  bright  as  a 
boy's,  the  young  Marquis,  sharp-set  to  learn,  and 
d'Alembert  with  his  'just  mind  and  inexhaustible 
imagination' — when  they  could  get  rid  of  that 
babbling  inconsequence,  Voltaire's  niece,  Madame 
Denis,  and  sit  hour  after  hour  discussing,  planning, 
dreaming !  The  quiet  d'Alembert  went,  as  quiet 
people  often  do,  far  beyond  his  impulsive  and  out- 
spoken companions  in  speculative  daring.   Though 


there  is  not  an  anti- Christian  line  in  any  of  his 
pubHshed  writings  except  his  correspondence,  yet 
the  scepticism  of  this  gentle  mathematician  far 
exceeded  that  of  him  who  is  accounted  the  Prince 
of  Unbelievers,  and  where  his  host  was  a  hotly 
convinced  Deist,  d'Alembert  only  thought  the 
probabilities  in  favour  of  Theism,  and  was  far  more 
Voltairian  than  Voltaire.  It  was  the  old  Pontiff  of 
the  Church  of  Anti- Christ  who  stopped  a  conver- 
sation at  his  table  wherein  d'Alembert  had  spoken 
of  the  very  existence  of  God  as  a  moot  point,  by 
sending  the  servants  out  of  the  room,  and  then 
turning  to  his  guests  with — '  And  now,  gentlemen, 
continue  your  attack  upon  God.  But  as  I  do  not 
want  to  be  murdered  or  robbed  to-night  by  my 
servants,  they  had  better  not  hear  you.' 

The  visit  lasted  in  all  two  months.  D'Alem- 
bert abandoned  the  Italian  journey,  offered  King 
Frederick  his  change,  and  returned  to  Paris. 

In  1772  he  was  made  Perpetual  Secretary  of 
the  French  Academy.  He,  whose  needs,  said 
Grimm,  were  always  the  measure  of  his  ambitions, 
had  scaled  heights,  not  beyond  his  deserts,  but 
beyond  his  wishes.  He  was  also  a  member  of  the 
scientific  Academies  of  Prussia,  Eussia,  Portugal, 
Naples,  Turin,  Norway,  Padua,  and  of  the  literary 
academies  of  Sweden  and  Bologna.  But  if '  the  end 
of  all  ambition  is  to  be  happy  at  home,'  d'Alembert 


had  failed.  When  the  Perpetual  Secretaryship 
was  still  a  new  and  dazzling  possession,  the  Per- 
petual Secretary  found  at  home  the  woman  to 
whom  he  was  captive  soul  and  body,  in  the  throes 
of  another  passion.  False  to  de  Mora,  as  she  had 
been  false  to  him,  she  was  then  writing  to  de 
Guibert  those  love-letters  which  have  given  her 
a  place  beside  Sappho  and  Elo'isa  and  have  added 
a  classic  to  literature.  It  was  d'Alembert's  part 
to  listen  to  self-reproaches  whose  justice  he  might 
well  guess,  to  look  into  the  depths  of  a  tenderness 
in  which  he  had  no  share.  Once  he  gave  her  his 
portrait  with  these  lines  beneath  it : 

Et  dites  quelquefois  en  voyant  cette  image 

De  tous  ceux  que  j'aimai,  qui  m'aima  comme  lui  ? 

She  herself  said  that  of  all  the  feelings  she  had 
inspired,  his  alone  had  not  brought  her  wretched- 

In  1775  de  Guibert  was  married.  The  mar- 
riage was  Mademoiselle's  death-blow.  The  fever 
of  the  soul  became  a  disease  of  the  body.  Some- 
times bitterly  repentant  and  sometimes  only  cap- 
tious and  difficult ;  now,  her  true  self  full  of 
tenderness  and  charm  ;  and  now,  reckless,  selfish, 
despairing — d'Alembert's  patience  and  goodness 
were  inexhaustible.  True  to  his  character,  he 
stood  aside  that  to  the  last  her  friends  might  visit 


her,  that  to  the  last  she  might  help  and  feel  for 

But  though  the  spirit  still  triumphed  at 
moments  over  the  body,  the  end  was  near.  When 
her  misery  was  dulled  by  opium,  d'Alembert  was 
always  watching,  unheeded,  at  her  bedside.  It 
was  the  attitude  of  his  life.  When  she  became 
conscious,  he  was  there  still.  Before  she  died, 
she  asked  his  pardon;  but  de  Guibert's  was  the 
last  name  upon  her  lips.  She  died  on  May  23, 
1776,  not  yet  forty-five  years  old. 

D'Alembert's  grief  seems  to  have  taken  by 
surprise  many  short-sighted  friends  who  had  sup- 
posed that  quiet  exterior  to  hide  a  cold,  or  an 
unawakened,  heart.  He  was  utterly  crushed  and 
broken.  His  life  had  lost  at  once  its  inspiration 
and  its  meaning.  For  the  sake  of  Mademoiselle 
he  had  grown  old  without  family  and  without 
hope.  His  friends,  in  that  age  of  noble  friend- 
ships, did  their  best  to  comfort  him.  But  his 
wounds  were  deeper  than  they  knew.  With  a 
super-refinement  of  selfishness  or  cruelty.  Made- 
moiselle had  left  him  her  Correspondence.  She 
had  not  preserved  in  it  one  single  line  of  the  many 
letters  he  had  himself  written  to  her,  while  it 
contained  full  and  certain  proofs  of  her  double 

He  who  has  lost  only  those  of  whose  faith  and 


truth  he  is  sure,  has  not  yet  reached  the  depth  of 
human  desolation. 

After  a  while,  d'Alembert  tried  to  return  to 
his  first  affection — that  cold  but  faithful  mistress, 
his  mathematical  studies.  At  the  Academy  he 
pronounced  the  eloge  of  Louis  de  Sacy,  who  had 
been  the  lover  of  the  Marquise  de  Lambert.  For 
the  first  time  he  looked  into  his  heart  and  wrote, 
and  thus  for  the  first  time  he  touched  the  hearts 
of  others  ;  the  cold  style  took  fire,  and  beneath  the 
clumsy  periods  welled  tears. 

But  the  writer  was  consumed  to  the  soul  with 
grief  and  weariness.  This  was  not  the  man  who 
could  use  sorrow  as  a  spur  to  new  endeavour  and 
to  nobler  work.  Before  the  persecutions  which 
had  assailed  the  Encyclopaedia  he  had  bowed  his 
head  and  taken  covert,  and  the  death  of  his  mis- 
tress broke  not  only  his  heart,  but  his  spirit  and 
his  life.  From  Madame  Marmontel  and  from 
Thomas,  he  derived,  it  is  said,  some  sort  of  com- 
fort :  Condorcet  was  as  a  son ;  but  with  Made- 
moiselle's death  the  light  of  her  society  had  gone 
out.  The  friends  who  remained  were  but  pale 
stars  in  a  dark  sky.  DAlembert  was  growing 
old.  He  suffered  from  a  cruel  disease  and  could 
not  face  the  horrors  of  the  operation  which  might 
have  relieved  it.  '  Those  are  fortunate  who  have 
courage,'    said    he ;    '  for   myself,  I  have  none.' 


It  was  life,  not  death,  he  dreaded.  What  use  then 
to  suffer  only  to  prolong  suffering  ? 

The  mental  enlightenment  he  had  given  the 
world,  the  wider  knowledge  which  he  had  lived 
to  impart,  consoled  this  dying  thinker  scarcely  at 
all.  He  was  to  his  last  hour  what  he  had  been 
when  Mademoiselle  took  ill-fated  compassion  on 
his  dependence  and  loneliness — a  child,  affection- 
ate, solitary,  tractable,  with  the  great  mind  always 
weighed  down  by  the  supersensitiveness  of  a  child's 
heart  and  with  a  child's  clinging  need  of  care  and 
tenderness.     He  died  on  October  29,  1783. 

The  man  whose  only  reason  for  dreading 
poverty  had  been  lest  he  should  be  forced  to 
reduce  his  charities,  left,  as  might  have  been 
expected,  a  very  small  fortune.  Condorcet  was 
his  residuary  legatee,  and  made  his  eloge  in  both 
the  Academies. 

Diderot  himself  was  dying  when  he  heard  of 
his  old  friend's  death.  '  A  great  light  has  gone 
out,'  said  he.  Euler,  d'Alembert's  brother,  and 
sometimes  his  rival,  geometrician,  survived  him 
only  a  few  months.  And  Voltaire,  the  quick  and 
life-giving  spirit  of  the  vast  movement  of  which 
d'Alembert  was  the  Logic,  the  Eeason,  the 
Thought,  had  already  died  to  earth,  though  he 
lived  to  everlasting  fame. 

D'Alembert    owes  his  greatest   reputation  to 


geometry.  But,  as  Grimm  said,  in  that  depart- 
ment only  geometricians  can  exactly  render  him 
his  due  :  '  He  added  to  the  discoveries  of  the  Eulers 
.  .  .  and.  the  Newtons.'  To  the  general  public 
his  great  title  to  glory  lies  in  the  mighty  help  he 
gave  to  that  great  monument  of  Voltairian  philo- 
sophy, the  Encyclopaedia.  The  Preface  was  'a 
work  for  which  he  had  no  model.'  By  it,  he  in- 
troduced to  the  world  that  book  which  Diderot 
produced,  and  which,  except  the  Bible  and  the 
Koran,  may  be  justly  said  to  have  been  the  most 
influential  book  in  history ;  which  gave  France, 
and,  through  France,  Europe,  that  new  light  and 
knowledge  which  brought  with  them  a  nobler 
civilisation  and  a  recognition  of  the  universal 
rights  of  man. 

In  himself,  d'Alembert  was  always  rather  a 
great  intelligence  than  a  great  character.  To  the 
magnificence  of  the  one  he  owed  all  that  has  made 
him  immortal,  and  to  the  weakness  of  the  other  the 
sorrows  and  the  failures  of  his  life.  For  it  is  by 
character  and  not  by  intellect  the  world  is  won. 




Some  hundred  and  eighty  odd  years  ago,  in  a  little 
town  in  France,  a  wild  boy  slipped  out  of  his  room 
at  midnight,  and  crept  downstairs  in  his  stocking- 
feet  with  the  wicked  intent  of  running  away  to 
Paris.  This  time-honoured  escapade  was  defeated 
by  the  appearance  of  Master  Denis's  resolute 
father  with  the  household  keys  in  his  hand. 
'  Where  are  you  going  ? '  says  he.  '  To  Paris,  to 
join  the  Jesuits.'  '  Certainly ;  I  will  take  you 
there  myself  to-morrow.'  And  Denis  retires  tamely 
and  ignominiously  to  bed. 

The  next  morning  the  good  old  father  (a 
master-cutler  in  the  town  of  Langres)  escorted  his 
scapegrace  to  the  capital,  as  he  had  desired, 
entered  him  at  Harcourt  College,  stayed  himself 
for  a  fortnight  at  a  neighbouring  inn  to  see  that 
the  boy  adhered  to  his  intentions ;  and  then  went 
home.  The  adventure  was  redeemed  from  the 
commonplace  in  that  this  scapegrace  would  fain 
have  run  away,  not  from  school,  but  to  it ;  and 

";nM!:!li:i"ii"''tli|!  ''llWfiilllitIi 

From  an  Engraving  by  Henriquez,  after  the  Portrait  by  Vavloo. 


that  he  was  acting  under  an  influence  much  more 
powerful  than  the  cheap,  adventurous  fiction  which 
generally  prompts  such  schemes.  When  he  was 
twelve  years  old  the  Jesuits  had  tonsured  Denis's 
hot  head,  and  no  doubt  designed  all  it  contained 
for  their  service. 

At  the  college  Denis  spent  his  time  in  learning 
a  great  deal  for  himself,  and  doing,  with  brilliant 
ease  and  the  most  complete  good-nature,  a  great 
deal  of  work  of  his  school-fellows.  He  was 
himself  astoundingly  clever  and  astoundingly 
careless.  He  learnt  mathematics,  which  could  not 
make  him  exact,  Latin,  and  English.  With  that 
charming  readiness  to  do  the  stupid  boys'  lessons 
for  them  {blanchir  les  chiffons  des  autres,  the 
talent  came  to  be  called  when  he  grew  older), 
with  his  inimitable  love  of  life,  his  jolly,  happy- 
go-lucky  disposition,  his  open  hand  and  heart, 
and  his  merry  face,  this  should  surely  have  been 
the  most  popular  schoolboy  that  ever  lived. 

One  of  his  friends  was  Bernis — to  be  poet. 
Cardinal,  and  protege  of  Madame  de  Pompadour — 
and  the  pair  would  dine  together  at  six  sous  a 
head  at  a  neighbouring  restaurant. 

The  schooldays  were  all  too  short.  The 
practical  master- cutler  at  Langres  soon  inti- 
mated to  Denis  that  it  was  time  to  choose  a 
profession.     But  Denis   declines  to  be  a  doctor, 



because  he  has  no  turn  for  murder ;  or  a  lawyer, 
because  he  has  no  taste  for  doing  other  people's 
business.  In  brief,  he  does  not  want  to  be  any- 
thing. He  wants  to  learn,  to  study,  to  look  round 
him.  But  a  shrewd  old  tradesman  is  not  going 
to  give,  even  if  he  could  afford  to  give,  any  son  of 
his  the  money  to  do  that.  Denis  had  at  home 
a  younger  brother,  who  was  to  be  a  priest  ('  that 
cursed  saint,'  the  graceless  Denis  called  him 
hereafter),  a  sister,  good  and  sensible  like  her 
father,  and  a  mother,  who  was  tender  and  foolish 
over  her  truant  boy,  after  the  fashion  of  mothers 
all  the  world  over.  Here  were  three  mouths  to 
feed.  Denis  loved  his  father  with  all  the  im- 
petuous affection  of  his  temperament.  He  was 
delighted  when,  some  years  later,  he  went  back  to 
Langres  and  a  fellow-townsman  grasped  him  by 
the  arm  saying :  '  M.  Diderot,  you  are  a  good  man, 
but  if  you  think  you  will  ever  be  as  good  a  man 
as  your  father,  you  are  much  mistaken.'  But 
Diderot  had  never  the  sort  of  affection  that  con- 
sists in  doing  one's  utmost  for  the  object  of  the 
affection.  He  preferred  to  be  a  care  and  a 
trouble  to  his  family  and  to  live  by  his  wits, 
harum-scarum,  merry,  and  poor.  He  chose  that 
life,  and  abided  by  the  choice  for  ten  years. 

Three  times  in  that  period  the  old  servant  of 
the  family  tramped  all  the  way  from  Langres  to 


Paris  with  little  stores  of  money  hidden  in  her 
dress  for  this  dear,  naughty  scapegrace  of  a 
Master  Denis;  but  except  for  this,  he  lived  on 
his  wits  in  the  most  literal  sense  of  the  term. 
He  made  catalogues  and  translations;  he  wrote 
sermons  and  thought  himself  well  paid  at  fifty 
eats  the  homily;  he  became  a  tutor — until  the 
pupil's  stupidity  bored  him,  when  he  threw  up 
the  situation  and  went  hungry  to  bed.  He  once 
indeed  so  far  commanded  himself  as  to  remain  in 
this  capacity  for  three  months.  Then  he  sought 
his  employer;  he  could  endure  it  no  more.  'I 
am  making  men  of  your  children,  perhaps;  but 
they  are  fast  making  a  child  of  me.  I  am  only 
too  well  off  and  comfortable  in  your  house,  but 
I  must  leave  it.'     And  he  left. 

One  Shrove  Tuesday  he  fainted  from  hunger 
in  his  wretched  lodgings,  and  was  restored  and  fed 
by  his  landlady.  He  took  a  vow  that  day,  and 
kept  it,  that,  if  he  had  anything  to  give,  he  would 
never  refuse  a  man  in  need.  By  the  next  morning 
he  was  as  light-hearted  as  usual  again.  A  bright 
idea,  even  the  recollection  of  a  few  apt  lines  from 
Horace,  would  always  restore  his  cheerfulness. 
He  enjoyed  indeed  all  the  blessings  of  a  sanguine 
nature,  and  fell  into  all  its  faults.  The  facts  that 
his  father  was  paying  his  debts,  that  often  he  had 
to  sponge  on  his  friends  for  a  dinner,  or  trick  a 

D  2 


tradesman  for  an  advantage  he  could  not  buy, 
neither  troubled  him  nor  made  him  work.  It  is 
no  doubt  to  his  credit  that  he  never  stooped,  as 
he  might  easily  have  done,  to  be  the  literary 
parasite  of  some  great  man,  to  prostitute  his 
talents  to  praise  and  fawn  on  some  ignoble  patron. 
But  though  that  gay,  profligate  existence  has  been 
often  made  to  sound  romantic  on  paper,  it  was 
squalid  and  shabby  enough  in  reality,  with  that 
shabbiness  which  is  of  the  soul. 

In  the  year  1743,  when  Diderot  was  thirty 
years  old,  he  must  needs  fall  in  love.  He  was 
lodging  with  a  poor  woman  and  her  daughter  who 
kept  themselves  by  doing  fine  needlework.  Anne 
Toinette  Champion  (Nanette,  Diderot  called  her) 
was  not  only  exquisitely  fresh  and  pretty,  but  she 
was  good,  simple,  and  honest.  To  gain  access  to 
her  Diderot  stooped  to  one  of  the  tricks  to  which 
his  life  had  made  him  used.  He  pretended  that 
he  was  going  to  enter  a  Jesuit  seminary,  and 
employed  Nanette  to  make  him  the  necessary 
outfit.  His  mouth  of  gold  did  the  rest.  No  one, 
perhaps,  who  did  not  live  with  Diderot  and  hear 
him  talk  '  as  never  man  talked,'  who  did  not  know 
him  in  the  flesh  and  fall  under  the  personal 
influence  of  his  magnetic  and  all-compeUing 
charm,  will  ever  fully  understand  it.  '  Utterly 
unclean,  scandalous,   shameless'  as   many  honest 


and  upright  people  knew  him  to  be,  he  fascinated 
them  all.  Something  indeed  of  that  fascination 
still  lingers  about  him,  as  the  scent  of  a  flower 
may  cling  to  a  coarse,  stained  parchment.  Eead 
the  facts  of  his  life,  as  briefly  and  coldly  stated 
in  some  biographical  dictionary,  and  most  men 
will  easily  dismiss  him  as  a  great  genius  and  a 
great  scoundrel.  Eead  the  thousand  anecdotes 
that  have  gathered  about  his  name,  of  the  love 
his  contemporaries  bore  him,  of  his  generosity,  his 
glowing  affections,  his  passionate  pity  for  sorrow, 
and  his  hot  zeal  for  humanity,  and  it  is  easy  to 
understand  not  only  the  mighty  part  Diderot 
played  in  the  great  movement  which  prepared  men 
for  freedom  and  the  French  Eevolution,  but  also 
his  insistent  claims  on  their  love  and  forgiveness. 

A  little  seamstress  could  not,  in  the  nature  of 
things,  resist  him  long.  The  hopeful  lover  went 
to  Langres  to  obtain  his  father's  consent  to  his 
marriage,  which  was  of  course  refused.  At  the 
date  of  his  wedding,  November  6,  1743,  Denis 
had  published  scarcely  anything,  had  no  certain 
sources  of  income,  and  very  few  uncertain  ones. 
He  was,  moreover,  at  first  so  jealous  of  his  dearest 
Nanette  that  he  made  her  give  up  her  trade  of 
needlework,  as  it  brought  her  too  much  into 
contact  with  the  outer  world.  The  pair  lived  on 
her  mother's  savings;  and  then  Denis  translated 


a  history  of  Greece  from  the  English,  and  kept  the 
wolf  from  the  door  a  little  longer. 

Poverty  fell,  as  ever,  more  hardly  on  the  wife 
than  on  the  husband.  The  ever  popular  Diderot 
was  often  asked  out  to  dine  with  his  friends,  and 
always  went ;  while  at  home  Nanette  feasted  on 
dry  bread,  to  be  sure  that  this  fine  lover  of  hers 
should  be  able  to  have  his  cup  of  coffee  and  his 
game  of  chess  at  the  cafe  of  the  Eegency  as  usual. 
Of  course  Denis  took  advantage  of  her  talent  for 
self-sacrifice.  His  writings  contain  much  senti- 
mental pity,  expressed  in  the  most  beautiful 
language,  for  the  condition  and  the  physical  disad- 
vantages of  women  ;  and  he  spoke  of  himself  most 
comfortably  as  a  good  husband  and  father,  and 
honestly  believed  that  he  was  both.  But  he  began 
to  neglect  his  wife  directly  his  first  passion  for 
her  was  spent.  She  was  not  perfect,  it  is  true.  Of 
a  certain  rigidity  in  her  goodness,  and  a  certain 
bourgeois  narrowness  in  her  view  of  life,  she  may 
be  justly  accused.  But  it  remains  undeniable  that 
she  was  thrifty  and  unselfish  at  home,  while  her 
husband  was  profligate  and  self-indulgent  abroad, 
that  she  saved  and  worked  for  her  children,  while 
he  wrote  fine  pages  on  paternal  devotion,  and  that 
he  never  gave  her  the  consideration  and  forbear- 
ance he  demanded /r^m  her  as  a  matter  of  course. 
Before  her  first  child  was  born  the  poor  girl  had 


lost  her  mother,  and  had  no  one  in  all  the  world  to 
depend  on  but  that  most  untrustworthy  creature 
on  earth,  a  genius  of  bad  character. 

In  the  year  1745  Denis  sent  her  to  Langres  for 
a  long  visit  to  his  parents,  to  effect  if  possible  a 
reconciliation  with  them. 

The  man  who  called  himself  '  the  apologist  of 
strong  passions,'  who  thought  marriage  '  a  senseless 
vow,'  and  '  was  always  very  near  to  the  position 
that  there  is  no  such  thing  as  an  absolute  rule  of 
right  and  wrong,'  would  not  be  likely  to  be  faith- 
ful. He  was  not  faithful.  There  soon  loomed 
on  the  scene  a  Madame  Puisieux  (the  wife  of  a 
barrister),  aged  about  five- and-twenty,  charming, 
accomplished,  dissolute.  Diderot  plunged  head- 
long into  love  with  her,  as  he  plunged  headlong 
into  everything.  To  be  sure,  she  was  abominably 
extravagant  and  always  wanting  money.  To 
gratify  her  demands  Diderot  wrote,  most  charac- 
teristically, an  '  Essay  on  Merit  and  Virtue,'  and 
brought  Merit  and  Virtue  the  sum  he  received  in 
payment.  But  Madame's  love  of  fine  clothes  was 
insatiable.  Between  a  Good  Friday  and  Easter 
Day  her  lover  composed  for  her  the  '  Philosophical 
Thoughts,'  which  first  made  him  famous,  which 
were  paid  the  compliment  of  burning,  and  for 
which  his  mistress  received  fifty  louis. 

The  history  of  the  inspiration  of  masterpieces 


would  afford  a  peculiarly  interesting  insight  into 
human  nature.  It  may  be  set  down  to  the  credit 
of  Madame  Puisieux  (history  knows  of  nothing 
else  to  her  credit)  that  her  rapacity  at  least  forced 
this  incorrigible  ne'er-do-weel  upon  his  destiny, 
and  first  turned  Diderot,  the  most  deUghtful  scamp 
in  the  capital,  into  Diderot  the  hard-working 
philosopher  and  man  of  genius. 

Nanette  came  home  presently,  having  earned 
the  love  and  admiration  of  the  little  family  at 
Langres,  and  put  up  with  Madame  Puisieux  as 
best  she  could.  Other  children  were  born  to  her, 
and  died  ;  only  one,  little  Angelique,  survived.  Of 
the  quantity  of  Diderot's  love  for  this  child  there 
is  no  doubt ;  it  is  only  the  quality  that  is  ques- 
tionable. Self-indulgent  to  himself,  he  was  weakly 
indulgent  to  her.  She  was  apt  at  learning,  so, 
when  they  both  felt  inclined,  he  taught  her  music 
and  history.  Later,  when  she  was  ill,  he  wrote 
letters  about  her  full  of  ardent  affection ;  but  he 
left  her  mother  to  nurse  her  and  went  off  gaily  to 
amuse  himself  with  his  friends,  and  then  took  great 
credit  for  having  given  'orders  which  marked 
attention  and  interest '  in  her,  before  he  went  out 
and  dined  with  Grimm  under  the  trees  in  the 

Of  course  Angelique  loved  the  lively  good- 
natured  father  much  the  better  of  the  two.     Of 


her  mother  the  daughter  herself  said  afterwards, 
with  a  sad  truth,  that  she  would  have  had  a 
happier  life  if  she  could  have  cared  less  for  her 

However,  Denis  was  working  now,  and  working 
meant,  or  should  mean,  ease  and  competence. 

The  '  Philosophical  Thoughts '  had  made  men 
turn  and  look  at  him.  True,  their  audacious 
freedom  was  not  pleasing  to  the  government ;  but 
what  did  a  Diderot  care  for  that?  His  ideas 
rolled  off  his  pen  as  the  words  rolled  off  his 
tongue.  '  I  do  not  compose,  I  am  no  author,'  he 
wrote  once.  '  I  read,  or  I  converse.  I  ask  ques- 
tions, or  I  give  answ^ers.'  The  lines  should  be 
placed  as  a  motto  over  each  of  his  works.  That 
they  are  literally  true  accounts  for  all  his  defects 
as  a  writer,  and  for  all  his  charm. 

In  1749  he  happened  to  be  talking  about  a  cer- 
tain famous  operation  for  cataract,  and  afterwards 
wrote  down  his  reflections  on  it.  To  a  man  born 
blind,  atheism,  said  Diderot,  is  surely  a  natural 
religion.  He  sent  his  '  Letter  on  the  Blind  for  the 
Use  of  Those  Who  See  '  to  the  great  chief  of  the 
party  of  which  his  '  Philosophical  Thoughts '  had 
proclaimed  himself  a  member.  Voltaire  replied 
that,  for  his  part,  if  he  were  blind,  he  should  have 
recognised  a  great  InteUigence  who  provided  so 
many   substitutes   for   sight;  and   the   friendship 


between  Arouet  and  Denis  was  started   with  a 


On  July  24,  1749,  Diderot  found  himself 
a  prisoner  in  the  fortress  of  Yincennes.  He 
was  not  wholly  surprised.  No  literary  man  was 
astonished  at  being  imprisoned  in  those  days. 
Diderot  was  perfectly  aware  that  since  the  publi- 
cation of  the  'Philosophical  Thoughts'  he  had 
been  suspect  of  the  police  ;  he  was  also  aware  that 
his  '  Letter  on  the  Blind '  contained  a  sneer  on  the 
subject  of  a  fine  lady,  the  chere  amie  of  d'Argenson, 
the  War  Minister.  For  company  he  had  '  Para- 
dise Lost'  and  his  own  buoyant  temperament. 
He  made  a  pen  out  of  a  toothpick,  and  ink  out  of 
the  slate  scraped  from  the  side  of  his  window, 
mixed  with  wine;  and  with  characteristic  good- 
nature wrote  down  this  simple  recipe  for  writing 
materials  on  the  wall  of  his  cell  for  the  benefit  of 
future  sufierers. 

Better  than  all,  he  was  the  friend  of  Voltaire, 
and  Voltaire's  Madame  du  Chatelet  was  a  near 
relative  of  the  governor  of  Vincennes.  After 
twenty-one  days  of  wire-pulUng,  Socrates  Diderot, 
as  Madame  du  Chatelet  called  him,  was  removed, 
as  the  fruit  of  her  efforts,  from  the  fortress  to  the 
castle  of  Vincennes,  put  on  parole,  allowed  the 
society  of  his  wife  and  children,  with  pen,  ink, 
and    books    to    his    heart's    content.     One    day 


Madame  Puisieux  came  to  see  him — in  attire  too 
magnificent  to  be  entirely  for  the  benefit  of  a 
poor  dog  of  a  prisoner  like  myself,  thinks  Denis. 
That  night  he  climbed  over  the  high  wall  of  the 
enceinte  of  the  castle,  and  finding  her,  as  he  had 
expected,  amusing  herself  with  another  admirer 
at  Sifete,  renounced  her  as  easily  and  hotly  as  he 
had  fallen  in  love  with  her.  He  had  one  far  more 
famous  visitor  in  Vincennes,  Jean  Jacques  Eous- 
seau.  As  they  walked  together  in  the  wood  of 
Vincennes,  Denis,  with  his  overrunning  fecundity 
of  idea,  suggested  to  Jean  Jacques,  it  is  said,  the 
matter  for  that  essay,  sometimes  called  the  '  Essay 
against  Civilisation,'  which  first  made  him  famous. 

When  his  imprisonment  had  lasted  three 
months  Diderot,  at  the  angry  urging  of  the  book- 
sellers of  Paris,  was  released. 

In  1745  one  of  those  booksellers,  Le  Breton, 
had  suggested  to  him  '  the  scheme  of  a  book  that 
should  be  all  books.'  Enterprising  England  had 
been  first  in  the  field.  To  Francis  Bacon  belongs 
the  honour  of  having  originated  the  idea  of  an 
Encyclopaedia.  Chambers,  an  Englishman,  first 
worked  out  that  idea.  It  was  a  French  trans- 
lation of  Chambers  that  Le  Breton  took  to  Diderot, 
and  it  was  Diderot  who  breathed  upon  it  the 
breath  of  life. 

That  this  knavish  bookseller's    choice  should 


have  fallen  out  of  all  men  upon  him,  might 
have  inclined  even  so  whole-hearted  a  sceptic  as 
Denis  himself  to  believe  in  an  Intelligence  behind 
the  world.  He  was  hungry  and  poor,  and 
must  have  work  that  would  bring  him  bread. 
There  were  indeed  thousands  of  persons  in  that 
position;  but  out  of  those  thousands  there  was 
only  one  with  the  hot,  sanguine  courage  to  under- 
take so  risky  a  scheme,  with  the  '  fiery  patience  ' 
to  work  it  in  the  face  of  overwhelming  odds,  and 
with  the  exuberant  genius  to  make  it  the  mighty 
masterpiece  it  became. 

Diderot  saw  its  possibilities  at  once.  In 
another  second,  as  it  were,  he  saw  all  he  could 
himself  do,  and  all  he  could  not  do.  He  could 
write  about  most  things.  He  could  study  the 
trades  and  industries  of  France,  if  it  took  him 
thirty  years  of  labour,  of  which  the  mere  thought 
would  daunt  most  men;  by  giving  their  history 
he  could  glorify  for  ever  those  peaceful  arts  which 
make  a  nation  truly  great  and  happy.  He  could 
write  on  Gallantry,  on  Genius,  on  Libraries,  on 
Anagrams.  For  his  fertile  spirit  scarcely  any 
subject  was  too  great  or  too  small.  Against  in- 
tolerance he  could  bring  to  bear  '  the  concentrated 
energy  of  a  profound  conviction.'  Eeligion  itself 
he  could  attack  in  so  far  as  it  interfered  with 
men's    liberty;    and    miracle    he    must    attack, 


because,  in  the  words  of  Voltaire,  '  Men  will  not 
cease  to  be  persecutors  till  they  have  ceased  to  be 
absurd.'  If  he  had,  just  to  appease  the  authori- 
ties, and  to  give  the  book  a  chance  of  a  hearing, 
to  truckle  here  and  there  to  prejudice  and  super- 
stition, well,  Diderot  could  lie  as  heartily  and  as 
cheerfully  as  he  did  all  things. 

But  the  inexact  schoolboy  of  Harcourt  College 
was  no  mathematician,  and  knew  his  limitations. 
With  the  freemasonry  of  genius  he  saw  in  a  single 
flashing  glance  that  d'Alembert  was  the  man  to 
share  with  him  the  parentage  of  this  wonderful 
child.  He  stormed  the  calm  savant  in  his  attic 
above  the  glazier's  shop,  overwhelmed,  prayed, 
pressed,  bewitched  him,  and  with  '  his  soul  in  his 
eyes  and  his  lips '  woke  in  d'Alembert's  quiet 
breast  an  enthusiasm  which  was  at  least  some 
reflex  of  his  own. 

For  three  years  the  two  worked  night  and  day 
at  the  preliminaries  of  their  scheme.  In  1750 
Diderot  poured  out,  with  the  warmth  and  glow  of 
a  woman  in  love,  the  Prospectus  and  Plan  of  his 
work.  The  overwhelmingness  of  his  enthusiasm 
had  forced  a  privilege  for  it  from  the  authorities. 
Also  in  1750  appeared  d'Alembert's  Preface,  and 
the  first  volume  was  launched  on  the  world. 

From    this    time   until   1765    the   history   of 
Diderot  and  of  the  Encyclopaedia  is  the  same  thing. 


For  fifteen  years  he  worked  at  it  unremittingly 
through  storm  and  sunshine.  The  idea  possessed 
and  dominated  him.  In  a  garret  on  the  fifth  floor 
in  his  lodging  in  the  Eue  Taranne,  wrapped  in 
an  old  dressing-gown,  with  wild  hair,  bare  neck, 
and  bent  back,  the  message  he  must  deliver 
through  the  Encyclopaedia  bubbled  into  his  heart 
and  went  straight  from  his  heart  to  his  pen. 

'  This  thing  will  surely  produce  a  great  revo- 
lution in  the  human  mind,'  he  said  of  it  in  passion- 
ate exultation :  '  We  shall  have  served  humanity.' 
For  this  Diderot,  who  disbelieved  so  loudly  and 
truculently  in  God,  believed  hopefully  in  the  im- 
provement of  human  kind,  and  had  for  the  race 
so  vast  and  so  generous  a  pity  that  he  sacrificed 
to  it  the  coarse  pleasures  his  coarse  nature  loved, 
his  time,  his  peace,  his  worldly  advancement,  his 
safety,  and  his  friend. 

In  1762  a  Eoyal  Edict  of  matchless  imbecility 
suppressed  the  first  two  volumes  of  the  book,  at 
the  same  time  begging  its  promoters  to  continue 
to  bring  out  others!  Every  year  a  volume  ap- 
peared until  1757.  The  success  of  the  thing  was 
prodigious,  and  with  reason,  for  it  said  what,  so 
far,  men  had  only  dared  to  think.  It  gave  the 
history,  quite  innocently,  of  the  taxes — of  gabelle, 
of  taille,  of  corvee — and  they  stood  'damned  to 
everlasting  fame ; '  it  showed  the  infamous  abuses 


of  the  game-laws ;  it  manifested  the  miracles  of 
science.  As  by  a  magnet  the  genius  of  Diderot 
had  drawn  to  him,  as  contributors,  all  the  genius 
of  France ;  while  always  at  his  side,  co-editing, 
restraining  his  imprudence,  yet  working  as  he 
worked  himself,  was  d'Alembert. 

And  then,  in  1759,  came  the  great  suspen- 
sion. D'Alembert  had  written  his  famous  article 
'  Geneva,'  and  that  mad  emotionalist,  Jean  Jacques 
Eousseau,  in  the  most  famous  treachery  in  the 
history  of  literature,  turned  on  the  philosophic 
party  in  his  Letter  to  d'Alembert  'On  Plays.' 
The  authorities  of  France  united  with  insulted 
Calvinism  and  with  Eousseau,  and  declared  the 
Encyclopsedia  accursed  and  forbidden.  That 
would  have  been  bad  enough;  but  there  was 
yet  one  thing  worse.  Beaten  down  by  storm  and 
insult,  d'Alembert  fell  back  from  the  fray  and  left 
Diderot  to  fight  the  battle  alone. 

He  started  up  in  a  second,  raging  and  cursing, 
and  went  out  with  his  life  in  his  hand.  Seizing 
his  pen,  he  slashed,  hewed,  hacked,  with  that 
reckless  weapon  on  every  side.  Yincennes  and 
the  Bastille  loomed  ominously ;  he  was  never  sure 
one  day,  says  his  daughter,  of  being  allowed  to 
continue  the  next ;  but  he  went  on.  The  authori- 
ties might  burn,  but  they  could  not  destroy  ;  they 
might  prohibit,  but  they  could  not  daunt  a  Diderot. 


In  1764,  despite  galleys  and  bonfires,  kings, 
ministers,  and  lettres  de  cachet,  the  last  ten  volumes 
were  ready  to  appear  in  a  single  issue  and  to 
crown  his  life's  labour,  when  fate  struck  him  a 
last  crushing  blow.  When  the  manuscript  of  the 
articles  had  been  burnt  he  discovered  that  the  false 
Le  Breton,  fearing  for  his  own  safety,  had  cut  out 
all  such  passages  as  he  thought  might  endanger  it ; 
and  had  thus  mutilated  and  ruined  the  ten  volumes 
past  recall. 

Diderot  burst,  literally,  into  tears  of  rage. 
Despair  and  frenzy  seized  him.  Was  this  to  be 
the  end  ?  Not  while  he  had  breath  in  his  body  ! 
He  attacked  Le  Breton  with  an  unclean  fury  not 
often  matched,  and  in  1765  the  volumes  appeared, 
as  whole  as  his  talent  and  energy  could  make 
them.  It  was  Diderot  who  said  that  if  he  must 
choose  between  Eacine,  bad  husband,  father, 
and  friend,  but  sublime  poet;  and  Eacine,  good 
husband,  father,  and  friend,  but  dull  ordinary 
man,  he  would  choose  the  first.  '  Of  the  wicked 
Eacine,  what  remains  ?  Nothing.  Of  Eacine,  the 
man  of  genius  ?  The  work  is  eternal.'  When  one 
considers  his  Herculean  labours  for  the  Encyclo- 
paedia, one  is  almost  tempted  to  judge  him  as  he 
judged  Eacine. 

All  the  time,  too,  he  was  busy  in  many  other 
ways.     There  has  surely  never  been  such  a  good- 


natured  man  of  letters.  The  study  door  in  the 
attic  was  open  not  only  to  all  his  friends,  but 
to  all  the  Grub  Street  vagrants  and  parasites 
of  Paris.  Diderot  purified  his  friend  d'Hol- 
bach's  German-French  and  profusely  helped  his 
dearest  Grimm  in  the  '  Literary  Correspondence ; ' 
he  corrected  proofs  for  Helvetius,  Eaynal,  and 
Galiani,  gave  lessons  in  metaphysics  to  a  German 
princess,  and  was,  for  himself,  not  only  an  encyclo- 
paedist, but  a  novelist,  an  art-critic,  and  a  play- 
wright. He  also  wrote  dedicatory  epistles  for  needy 
musicians,  '  reconciled  brothers,  settled  lawsuits, 
solicited  pensions.'  He  planned  a  comedy  for  an 
unsuccessful  dramatic  author,  and,  in  roars  of 
laughter,  indited  an  advertisement  of  a  hair-wash 
to  oblige  an  illiterate  hairdresser.  The  story  has 
been  told  often,  but  still  bears  telling  afresh,  of 
the  young  man  who  came  to  him  with  a  personal 
satire  against  Diderot  himself.  '  I  thought,'  says 
the  satirist,  '  you  would  give  me  a  few  crowns  to 
suppress  it.'  '  I  can  do  better  for  you  than  that,' 
says  Diderot,  not  in  the  least  annoyed.  '  Dedicate 
it  to  the  brother  of  the  Duke  of  Orleans,  who 
hates  me;  take  it  to  him  and  he  will  give  you 
assistance.'  '  But  I  do  not  know  the  Prince.'  '  Sit 
down,  and  I  will  write  the  dedication  for  3^ou.' 
He  did,  and  so  ably,  that  the  satirist  obtained  a 
handsome  sum. 



Another  day  he  composed  for  the  benefit  of  a 
woman,  who  had  been  deserted  by  the  Due  de  la 
Vrilliere,  a  most  touching  appeal  to  the  Duke's 
feelings.  '  While  I  lived  in  the  light  of  your  love, 
I  did  not  ask  your  pity.  But  of  all  your  passion 
there  only  remains  to  me  your  portrait — and  that 
I  must  sell  to-morrow  for  bread.'  The  Duke  sent 
her  fifty  louis. 

It  is  hardly  necessary  to  say  that  Diderot's 
friends  availed  themselves  as  freely  of  his  purse  as 
of  his  brains.  In  return  for  his  mighty  expendi- 
ture of  time,  talent,  and  energy  for  the  Encyclo- 
pedia he  never  received  more  than  the  princely 
sum  of  one  hundred  and  thirty  pounds  a  year.  As 
he  was  the  sort  of  person  who  always  took  a 
carriage  if  he  wanted  one,  who  had  a  pretty  taste 
in  miniatures  and  ohjets  d'art  which  he  found  it 
positively  imperative  to  gratify,  as  he  loved  high 
play  and  always  lost — as,  in  brief,  he  could  never 
deny  himself  or  anybody  else  anything — it  was 
physically  impossible  he  should  ever  be  solvent. 

One  graceless  hanger-on  turned  back  as  he  was 
leaving  him  one  day.  '  M.  Diderot,  do  you  know 
any  natural  history?'  'Well,'  says  Diderot, 
<  enough  to  tell  a  pigeon  from  a  humming-bird.' 
'  Have  you  ever  heard  of  the  Formica  leo  ?  It  is  a 
very  busy  little  creature  ;  it  burrows  a  hole  in  the 
earth  like  a  funnel,  covers  the  surface  with  a  fine 


sand,  attracts  a  number  of  stupid  insects  to  it, 
takes  them,  sucks  them  dry,  and  says,  "  M.  Diderot, 
I  have  the  honour  to  wish  you  a  very  good  morn- 
ing." '  It  may  be  said  of  Diderot  that  he  could 
love,  but  not  respect ;  and  that  is  the  inevitable 
attitude  one  takes  towards  himself. 

In  1755,  during  his  work  at  the  Encyclopgedia 
and  for  those  innumerable  idle  persons  who  had 
much  better  have  worked  for  themselves,  poor 
Nanette  went  on  a  second  fatal  visit  to  Langres 
and  gave  her  husband  the  opportunity  of  falling 
in  love  with  Mademoiselle  Volland,  and  starting 
a  memorable  correspondence. 

Sophie  Volland  was  a  rather  elderly  young 
lady,  with  spectacles,  and  a  good  deal  of  real 
cleverness  and  erudition.  Whether  Diderot,  who 
was  now  a  man  of  forty-two,  was  ever  literally  in 
love  with  her,  or  whether  he  was  '  less  than  lover 
but  more  than  friend,'  remains  uncertain.  His 
letters  to  her  are  warmly  interesting,  frank, 
natural,  spontaneous,  with  many  passages  of  ex- 
quisite beauty  and  thoughtfulness.  There  is  but 
one  fault — that  fatal  fault  without  which  Diderot 
would  not  have  been  Diderot  at  all  but  some 
loftier  man — his  irrepressible  indecency. 

He  had  much  to  tell  Mademoiselle.  The  words 
seem  to  trip  over  each  other  in  his  anxiety  to 
show  her  all  he  had  done  and  felt.     He  was  now 

B  2 


famous.  The  Encyclopasdia  had  thrown  open  to 
him,  cutler's  son  though  he  was,  the  doors  of  the 
salons  \  a  great  quarrel  he  had  with  Eousseau  in 
1757 — the  dingy  details  of  which  there  is  neither 
interest  nor  profit  in  recalling — made  him  the 
talk  of  the  cafes. 

But  this  loud,  explosive  Denis  was  scarcely  a 
social  light.  He  said  himself  that  he  only  liked 
company  in  which  he  could  say  anything.  And 
what  Diderot  meant  by  anytJiing  was  considered 
indecorous  even  in  that  freest  of  all  free-spoken 
ages.  Good  old  Madame  Geoffrin  lost  her  patience 
with  him,  not  only  for  his  licence,  but  for  talking 
so  movingly  about  duty  and  neglecting  all  his 
own.  She  was  not  going  to  ignore  his  Mademoiselle 
VoUand.  She  treated  him  '  like  a  beast,'  he  said, 
and  advised  his  wife  to  do  the  same.  As  for 
Madame  Necker — 'qui  raffole  de  moi,'  said  the 
complacent  Denis  himself — she  too  'judged  great 
men  by  their  conduct  and  not  by  their  talents,' 
which  was  very  awkward  indeed  for  a  Diderot. 

There  was  a  third  house  where  he  visited  much 
more  often  and  got  on  much  better ;  but  that  was 
not  because  Madame  d'Epinay  was  its  mistress, 
but  because  Grimm  was  its  presiding  genius.  His 
friendship  with  the  cool  German  had  a  senti- 
mentality and  a  demonstrativeness  which  English- 
men find  hard  to  forgive,  but  which  were  sincere 


enough  not  the  less.  Grimm  took  complete  con- 
trol of  his  impulsive,  generous  colleague.  Because 
Grimm  bade  him,  Denis  began  in  1759  writing  his 
'Salons,'  or  criticisms  on  pictures,  and  became 
'the  first  critic  in  France  who  made  criticism 
eloquent;'  while,  when  Grimm  was  away,  almost 
all  the  work  of  the  'Literary  Correspondence' 
fell  on  Diderot's  too  good-natured  shoulders. 
When  his  dearest  friend  was  not  there,  Diderot's 
steps  turned  much  less  often  towards  Madame 
d'Epinay's  house. 

In  1759  he  first  spent  an  autumn  at  the  only 
place  at  which  he  was  perfectly  at  home,  and 
where  he  soon  became  a  regular  visitor. 

Baron  d'Holbach  was  first  of  all  'an  atheist, 
and  not  ashamed ; '  but  he  was  also  very  rich, 
very  liberal,  very  hospitable,  with  a  charming 
country  house  at  Grandval,  near  Charenton,  where 
he  entertained  the  free-thinkers  of  all  nations,  and 
where  his  table  was  equally  celebrated  for  its  cook 
and  its  conversation.  The  former  was  so  good 
that  Denis  was  always  over-eating  himself;  and 
the  latter  was,  in  a  moral  sense,  so  bad  that  he 
enjoyed  it  to  the  utmost. 

The  Grandval  household  was  fettered  by  none 
of  the  tiresome  rules  which  are  apt  to  make  visit- 
ing, when  one  has  passed  the  easily  adaptable 
season  of  youth,  a  hazardous   experiment.     The 


hostess  'fulfilled  no  duties  and  exacted  none.' 
The  visitors  were  as  free  as  in  their  own  homes. 
Diderot  would  get  up  at  six,  take  a  cup  of  tea, 
fling  open  the  windows  to  admit  the  air  and  sun- 
shine, and  then  fall  to  work.  At  two  came  dinner. 
The  house  was  always  full  of  people  who  met  now 
for  the  first  time.  In  that  free  style,  glowing  with 
life  and  colour,  Diderot  recorded  to  Mademoiselle 
Volland  the  Eabelaisian  conversation  which  made 
these  dinners  so  long,  and,  to  him,  so  delightful. 
He  reported  to  her  verbatim  the  amazing  liberty 
of  speech  which  distinguished  them,  just  as  he 
reported  to  her  in  minutest  detail  the  indigestions 
for  which  the  too  excellent  cook  was  responsible. 

The  unbridled  talk  of  d'Holbach's  mother-in- 
law  continually  set  the  table  in  a  roar.  Diderot 
himself  was  at  his  best — full  of  bonhomie  and  joie- 
de-vivre — laughing  one  minute  and  crying  the  next, 
warm  in  generous  pity  for  sorrow,  quick  to  be 
irritated  or  appeased,  pouring  out  torrents  of 
splendid  ideas  and  then  of  grossest  ribaldry,  his 
mouth  speaking  always  from  the  fulness  of  his 
heart,  utterly  indiscreet,  brilliant,  ingenuous,  de- 
lightful; an  orator  'drunk  with  the  exuberance 
of  his  own  verbosity,'  who  could  argue  that  black 
was  white,  and  then  that  white  was  black  again, 
and  whose  seduction  and  danger  lay  in  the  fact 
that  he  always  fully  believed  both  impossibilities 


himself.  No  subject  that  was  started  found  him 
cool  or  neutral.  'He  is  too  hot  an  oven,'  said 
Voltaire;  '  everything  gets  burnt  in  him/ 

When  the  dinner  was  over  he  would  thrust  his 
arm  through  his  host's  and  walk  in  the  garden 
with  him.  He  at  least  did  his  best  to  imbue  the 
dogmatic  atheism  of  d'Holbach  with  luxuriance 
and  warmth.  At  seven  they  came  back  to  the 
house,  and  supper  was  followed  by  picquet  and 
by  talk  till  they  went  to  bed. 

Among  many  other  visitors  whom  Diderot  met 
while  he  was  what  he  called  'veuf  at  Grandval 
were  at  least  four  Englishmen — Sterne,  Wilkes, 
Garrick,  and  Hume. 

Diderot  has  been  well  called  the  most  English 
of  the  Frenchmen  of  the  eighteenth  century.  He 
began  his  literary  career  by  making  translations 
from  our  language.  In  a  passion  of  admiration  he 
had  fallen  at  the  feet  of  the  '  divine  Eichardson,' 
and  imitated  'Pamela'  in  a  very  bad  novel  of 
his  own,  '  The  Nun  ; '  in  another,  '  Jacques,  the 
Fatalist,'  he  tried  to  accustom  France  to  romance 
in  the  style  of  Sterne.  He  had  taught  his  fellow- 
citizens,  he  said,  to  read  and  to  esteem  Bacon.  He 
was  familiar  with  the  works  of  Pope,  Chaucer, 
Tillotson,  and  Locke ;  and  he  has  left  a  noble  and 
famous  criticism  upon  Shakespeare:  'He  is  like 
the  St.  Christopher  of  Notre-Dame,  an  unshapen 


Colossus,  rudely  carven,  but  beneath  whose  legs 
we  can  all  walk  without  our  brows  touching 

To  Garrick,  Diderot  paid  exaggerated  homage, 
and  went  into  raptures  over  the  wonderful  play  of 
his  face.  He  admired  Wilkes's  morals  as  well  as 
his  mind,  and  in  1768  wrote  him  a  flattering  letter. 
As  for  Hume,  he  liked  the  delightful  Diderot  better 
than  any  other  philosopher  he  met  in  France.  It 
is  Diderot  who  tells  the  story  of  Hume  saying  at 
d'Holbach's  table,  '  I  do  not  believe  there  is  such 
a  thing  as  an  atheist ;  I  have  never  seen  one,'  and  of 
d'Holbach's  replying,  '  Then  you  have  been  a  little 
unfortunate ;  you  are  sitting  now  with  seventeen.' 
Sterne,  whose  '  Tristram  Shandy '  was  delighting 
France  in  general  and  Diderot  in  particular  when 
its  author  was  at  Grandval,  on  his  return  home 
sent  Denis  English  books. 

In  1761  Diderot  produced  a  play.  '  The  Father 
of  the  Family  '  is,  it  must  be  confessed,  a  sad  bore 
with  his  lachrymose  moralities  ;  but  he  is  exhila- 
rating compared  to  '  The  Natural  Son,'  Diderot's 
second  play,  which  was  acted  in  1771.  The  uni- 
versal Denis  was  no  playwright. 

In  1772  he  published  the  ten  volumes  of  plates 
which  he  had  laboriously  prepared  to  supplement 
the  text  of  the  Encyclopasdia  ;  and  in  May  1773, 
when  he  was  sixty  years  old,  he  visited  Catherine 
the  Great. 


He  had  had  relations  with  her  for  some  years. 
One  fine  day,  in  1765,  it  had  suddenly  occurred 
to  him  that  his  dearest  Angelique,  over  whom  he 
had  poured  such  streams  of  paternal  sentiment, 
would  have  positively  no  dot.  Her  fond,  impro- 
vident father  had,  of  course,  never  attempted  to 
save  anything  for  her,  and,  if  he  knew  his  own 
disposition,  must  have  known  too  he  never  would 
save  anything.  The  only  thing  he  had  of  value 
in  the  w^orld,  besides  his  head,  was  his  library. 
Catherine  the  Great  was  a  magnificent  patron  of 
letters  ;  and  Diderot  was  her  especial  protege.  He 
would  sell  his  books  to  her !  She  delightedly 
accepted  the  offer.  She  gave  him  for  them  a 
sum  equal  to  about  seven  hundred  pounds,  and 
appointed  him  her  librarian  at  a  salary  of  a 
thousand  livres  a  year,  fifty  years'  payment  being 
made  in  advance. 

For  the  first  time  in  his  history  Diderot  found 
himself  rich.  When  a  patron  so  munificent  asked 
him  to  visit  her,  how  could  he  decline  ?  All  the 
Encyclopgedists  were  her  warm  admirers ;  she 
herself  used  to  say  modestly  that  Yoltaire  had 
made  her  the  fashion.  Denis  hated  long  journeys 
and  loved  Paris,  but  go  he  must.  He  left  France 
on  May  10,  1773.  He  stopped  at  The  Hague— 
where  he  characteristically  admired  the  beauty  of 
the  women,  and  the  turbot — and  at  last  arrived  at 
St.  Petersburg. 


For  a  monarch  who  complained  that  she  might 
have  been  the  head  of  Medusa — everyone  turned 
to  stone  when  she  entered  the  room — Diderot 
must  have  been  a  singularly  refreshing  guest. 
It  was  one  of  the  most  charming  traits  in  his 
character  that  he  respected  persons  no  more  than 
a  child  does,  or  a  dog.  All  etiquette  fled  before 
his  breezy,  impulsive  personality.  The  very 
clothes  he  arrived  in  were  so  shabby,  her  Majesty 
had  to  present  him  immediately  with  a  court  suit. 
He  was  with  her  every  afternoon.  He  said  what 
he  liked,  and  as  much  as  he  liked,  which  was  a 
very  great  deal.  In  the  heat  and  excitement  of 
his  arguments  he  would  hammer  the  Imperial 
knees  black  and  blue,  till  the  Empress  had  to  put 
a  table  in  front  of  her  for  safety.  If  he  ever  did 
recollect  her  august  position,  '  Allons ! '  she  would 
cry  ;  '  between  men  everything  is  permissible.'  He 
evolved  the  most  magnificent,  impossible  schemes 
for  the  government  of  her  empire — which  would 
have  upset  it  in  a  week  if  she  had  tried  them,  said 
she.  During  his  stay,  his  dearest  Grimm  was  also 
a  guest.  In  March  1774,  Denis  left ;  and  by  the 
time  he  reached  Paris  again,  was  persuaded  that 
he  had  enjoyed  himself  very  much  indeed. 

Four  years  later,  in  1778,  he  first  saw  in  the 
flesh  the  great  elder  brother  of  his  order,  the 
master-worker   in    the   temple   slowly   lifting    its 


gorgeous  towers  towards  the  light — Voltaire.  They 
had  not  always  agreed  on  paper :  their  goal  had 
been  the  same,  but  not  the  road  to  it.  '  But  we 
are  not  so  far  apart,'  says  old  Voltaire  ;  '  we  only 
want  a  conversation  to  understand  each  other/ 
Accordingly,  when  he  came  on  his  last  triumph 
to  the  capital,  Diderot  went  to  see  him  in  the 
Villettes'  house  on  what  is  now  the  Quai  Voltaire. 
Few  details  of  their  interviews  have  been  pre- 
served ;  but  it  is  said  that  they  discussed  Shake- 
speare, and  that  when  Diderot  left,  Voltaire  said 
of  him :  '  He  is  clever,  but  he  lacks  one  very 
necessary  talent — that  of  dialogue.'  On  his  part, 
Diderot  compared  Voltaire  to  a  haunted  castle 
falling  into  ruins — 'but  one  can  easily  see  it  is 
still  inhabited  by  a  magician.' 

Voltaire  died.  Diderot  was  himself  growing 
old ;  he  had  acquired,  he  thought  in  Eussia,  the 
seeds  of  a  lung  disease.  Angelique  married  a 
M.  de  Vandeul,  on  the  strength  of  the  dot  pro- 
vided by  the  sale  of  the  library.  Madame  Diderot, 
poor  soul,  had  become  not  a  little  worried  and 
embittered.  It  is  the  careless  who  make  the  care 
worn,  and  Diderot  was  almost  to  the  last  the 
engaging,  light-hearted  scamp  whose  troubles  are 
always  flung  on  to  some  patient  scapegoat. 

In  1783,  or  1784,  the  death  of  Mademoiselle 
VoUand  gave  him  a  real  grief.  Twenty  years  before 


lie  had  written  to  her  with  an  exquisite  eloquence 
of  the  calm  and  gentle  approach  of  the  great  rest, 
Death :  '  One  longs  for  the  end  of  life  as,  after 
hard  toil,  one  longs  for  the  end  of  the  day.'  He 
proved  in  himself  the  truth  of  his  own  words. 
He  had  not  even  a  hope  of  the  immortality  of  the 
soul ;  but  he  had  worked  hard,  the  evening  was 
come,  and  he  was  weary.  He  was  still  working — 
writing  the  '  Life  of  Seneca.'  He  was  still  his  all 
too  lovable,  spontaneous  self,  talking  with  that 
marvellous  inspiration  of  which  the  best  of  his 
books  can  convey  little  idea. 

A  fortnight  before  he  died  he  moved  into  a 
new  home,  given  him  by  Catherine  the  Great,  in 
the  Eue  Eichelieu,  opposite  the  birthplace  of 
Moliere  and  almost  next  door  to  the  house  where 
Voltaire  had  lived  with  Madame  du  Chatelet,  and 
after  her  death.  The  cure  of  Saint- Sulpice  came 
to  see  him,  and  suggested  that  a  retractation  of 
his  sceptical  opinions  would  produce  good  effect. 
'  I  dare  say  it  would,'  said  Denis,  '  but  it  would 
be  a  most  impudent  lie.'  In  his  last  conversation 
Madame  de  Vandeul  records  that  she  heard  him 
say :  '  The  first  step  towards  philosophy  is  un- 

The  end  came  very  suddenly.  On  the  last  day 
of  July  1784,  he  was  supping  with  his  wife  and 
daughter,  and  at  dessert  took  an  apricot.     Nanette 


gently  remonstrated.  'Mais  que  diable  de  mal 
veux-tu  que  cela  me  fasse  ?  '  he  cried.  They  were 
his  last  words  and  perfectly  characteristic.  He 
died  as  he  sat,  a  few  minutes  later. 

If  to  be  great  means  to  be  good,  then  Denis 
Diderot  was  a  little  man.  But  if  to  be  great  means 
to  do  great  things  in  the  teeth  of  great  obstacles, 
then  none  can  refuse  him  a  place  in  the  temple  of 
the  Immortals. 

His  fiction,  taken  from  rottenness,  has  returned 
to  it,  and  is  justly  dead.  His  plays  were  damned 
on  their  appearance.  His  moving  criticisms  on 
art  and  the  drama,  his  satirical  dialogue,  '  Eameau's 
Nephew ' — nearly  all  the  printed  talk  of  this  most 
matchless  of  all  talkers — are  rarely  read.  His 
letters  to  Mademoiselle  Yolland  will  last  so  long  as 
the  proper  study  of  mankind  is  man.  But  it  is  as 
the  father  of  the  Encyclopaedia  that  Denis  Diderot 
merits  eternal  recognition.  Guilty  as  he  was  in 
almost  every  relation  of  life  towards  the  individual, 
for  mankind,  in  the  teeth  of  danger  and  of  infi- 
delity, at  the  ill-paid  sacrifice  of  the  best  years  of 
his  exuberant  life,  he  produced  that  book  which 
first  levelled  a  free  path  to  knowledge  and  enfran- 
chised the  soul  of  his  generation. 



'  How  can  you  say  I  do  not  know  Galiani  ? '  wrote 
Voltaire  to  Madame  d'fipinay.  '  I  have  read  him  ; 
therefore  I  have  seen  him.' 

Of  that  Brotherhood  of  Progress,  united  by  a 
love,  sometimes  for  each  other  and  always  for  man- 
kind, if  Voltaire  was  the  leader,  and  d'Alembert  the 
thinker,  Galiani  was  certainly  the  wit.  In  his  own 
day  he  was  celebrated  as  the  man  who  made  Paris 
laugh — and  ponder — by  his  famous  '  Dialogues  on 
Corn ; '  and  in  our  day  he  is  remembered  as  the 
gay  little  buffoon  of  the  eighteenth  century  and  the 
author  of  a  most  amusing  correspondence.  Voltaire 
went  on  to  declare  the  Abbe  must  be  as  much  like 
his  Dialogues  as  two  jets  of  fire  are  like  each 
other ;  and  Diderot  swore  that  if  he  had  written 
a  word  of  the  book,  he  must  have  written  it 
exactly  as  it  was. 

Light,  sparkUng,  irresponsible,  like  the  bril- 
liant babble  of  some  precocious  child,  not  in  the 

a!y^l^ — ' 

From  a  Print. 

I         ^'^  The    "r^ 


least  hampered  by  respect  for  the  convenances^  as 
quick  and  flashing  as  sunshine  on  diamonds,  as 
bubbling  and  spontaneous  as  a  dancing  little 
mountain  torrent,  perfectly  free  from  the  bitter- 
ness, the  malignity,  and  the  sarcasm  which  make 
Voltaire's  jests  so  terrible — the  talk  and  the  writ- 
ing of  Galiani  are  alike  unique.  The  '  dear  little 
Abbe '  of  the  women,  with  his  dwarfs  figure  and 
his  great  head,  his  crafty  Italian  brain  to  conceive 
a  brilliant  scheme  and  his  easy  flow  of  wit  to  pre- 
sent it  to  his  world,  stands  out  alone  against  the 
horizon  of  the  eighteenth  century. 

Ferdinand  Galiani  first  saw  the  light  at  Chieti, 
in  Abruzzo,  on  December  2,  1728.  He  was  born 
with  a  silver  spoon  in  his  mouth,  in  two  senses 
at  least.  His  father  was  Eoyal  Auditor  in  one 
of  the  provinces  of  the  Neapolitan  Government; 
and  his  uncle  was  Monseigneur  Celestin  Galiani, 
first  chaplain  to  the  King  of  Naples,  and  a  most 
wealthy,  learned,  and  enlightened  churchman. 

Little  Ferdinand  was  eight  when  he  was  sent  to 
be  educated,  with  his  elder  brother,  Bernard,  under 
this  uncle's  supervision  at  Naples.  For  a  time  the 
two  children  were  taught  at  the  convent  of  the 
Celestins,  as  Monseigneur  was  in  Eome,  nego- 
tiating a  peace  on  behalf  of  the  King  of  the  Two 
Sicilies.  When  he  returned,  he  took  the  boys 
back  to  his  own  palace  and  gave  them  the  best 


and  the  most  delightful  of  all  forms  of  learning,  the 
society  of  clever  people.  The  visitors  soon  recog- 
nised that  the  way  to  the  uncle's  heart  was  through 
the  precocious  brain  of  the  little  nephew — that  to 
teach  Ferdinand  was  to  delight  Monseigneur. 
Whatever  brother  Bernard  may  have  been, 
Ferdinand  was  surely  the  aptest  and  sharpest  of 
infant  prodigies.  He  heard  discussed  around  him 
antiquarianism,  history,  literature,  commerce ;  and 
not  one  seed  of  information  fell  on  barren  ground. 
Many  years  after  Grimm  declared  that  there  was 
only  one  man  in  Paris  who  really  knew  Latin, 
and  he  was  the  Abbe  Galiani. 

He  was  still  a  mere  boy  when  he  represented 
Bernard  at  a  meeting  of  the  Academy  of  Naples 
and  read  an  article  on  the  Immaculate  Conception. 
The  worthy  Academicians,  naturally  shocked  at 
such  a  little  creature  attempting  a  subject  so 
serious,  forbade  him  to  read  it.  'Very  well,' 
thinks  young  Ferdinand,  '  I  can  wait.'  The  exe- 
cutioner of  Naples  died  soon  after.  The  Academy 
was  famous  for  its  eloges  funebres.  And  behold, 
there  appears,  in  wicked  and  most  unmistakable 
travesty  of  the  Academical  funeral  orations,  the 
eloge  of  the  executioner  !  The  Academy  was  very 
indignant,  the  world  very  much  amused,  and 
Galiani  had  made  his  bow  to  the  public  in  the 
role  he  was  never  to  relinquish.     He  confessed  all 


to  the  First  Minister,  Tanucci.  Tanucci  intro- 
duced him  to  the  King  and  Queen  of  Naples,  who 
were  delighted,  and  then  appeased  the  Academy 
by  condemning  the  delinquent  to  ten  days'  spiritual 
exercises  in  a  neighbouring  convent. 

At  sixteen  the  boy  was  already  an  ardent  Poli- 
tical Economist.  As  England  was  the  country 
where  that  science  was  brought  to  perfection, 
he  learnt  English,  translated  Locke's  'Essay  on 
Money,'  and  set  to  work  to  write  one  himself. 
All  the  time  he  was  studying  diligently  the  ancient 
navigation,  peoples,  and  commerce  of  the  Mediter- 
ranean, throwing  off  a  satire  here,  a  mocking  set 
of  verses  there,  and  cultivating  that  pretty  talent 
for  epigram  and  story-telling. 

When  '  Money  '  was  finished,  he  read  it  to 
Monseigneur,  without  mentioning  its  authorship. 
'  Why  do  not  yoii  give  your  mind  to  serious  works 
such  as  that  ? '  said  the  King's  chaplain,  and 
praised  the  thing  extravagantly.  When  Galiani 
told  his  secret,  Monseigneur  was  so  delighted  that 
he  at  once  set  to  work  at  Court  to  procure  this 
promising  nephew  something  really  worth  having. 
At  two-and -twenty  years  old,  having  never  studied 
theology  and  having  taken  minor  orders  only,  and 
with  the  sole  object  of  obtaining  these  emoluments, 
Galiani  found  himself  the  possessor  of  the  benefice 
of  Centola  and  the  abbey  of  Saint-Laurent,  while 


a  dispensation  from  Eome  gave  him  the  title  of 
Monseigneur  and  the  honour  of  the  mitre.  Soon 
after,  the  admiring  Court  of  Naples  also  presented 
him  with  the  rich  abbey  of  Saint  Catherine  of 

The  wonder  is,  not  that  Galiani  writhed  with 
laughter  (like  the  little  Punchinello  his  friends 
dubbed  him)  when  he  alluded  to  the  religion  of 
his  fathers,  but  that  to  the  end  of  his  days  he  saw 
in  that  religion,  beneath  its  shameless  venality  and 
its  hideous  moral  corruptions,  some  saving  truth 
to  bless  and  comfort  man's  soul.  When  all  Paris 
laughed  at  the  credulity  of  Madame  Geoffrin,  whose 
death  was  said  to  have  been  brought  about  from 
over-devotion  to  her  religious  duties,  it  was  Galiani 
who  wrote  that  he  considered  that  unbelief  was 
'  the  greatest  effort  the  mind  of  man  could  make 
against  his  natural  instincts  and  wishes.  ...  As 
the  soul  grows  old,  belief  reappears.'  Unlike 
nearly  all  his  philosophic  friends,  if  his  own  illu- 
sions were  few,  he  was  careful  to  leave  undisturbed 
those  of  happier  people. 

In  respect  to  the  emoluments  he  received  from 
Eome,  and  on  which  he  fattened  all  his  life,  it  may 
be  justly  said  that  he  took  them  as  a  man  takes  a 
fortune  out  of  a  business  he  knows  to  be  rotten, 
congratulating  himself  on  his  own  perspicacity, 
and  believing  that  beneath  the   rottenness  there 


still  lies  the  making  of  a  true  and  honest  enter- 

The  Neapolitan  Government  having  adopted 
all  the  ideas  suggested  in  '  Money,'  the  fortunate 
young  gentleman  who  had  written  it  started  off 
in  excellent  spirits,  in  November  1751,  for  Eome, 
Florence,  and  Venice.  The  Pope,  and  all  the 
grandees,  savants^  and  litterateurs  in  Italy  petted 
and  made  much  of  the  agreeable  little  prodigy. 

In  June  1753  his  uncle,  Celestin,  died,  leaving 
Ferdinand  his  fortune.  Galiani  still  remained  in 
Naples,  the  spirit  and  the  delight  of  the  brilliant 
society  that  Monseigneur  had  gathered  about  him. 
But  there  was  never  any  time  in  his  life  when  it 
was  enough  for  this  wit  to  be  wit  only.  He  said 
of  himself  that  he  had  all  the  vices,  and  his  friends 
declared  he  had  all  the  tastes.  The  friends  were 
right.  He  soon  began  to  make  a  collection  of  the 
stones  thrown  up  by  Vesuvius,  classified  them, 
wrote  a  beautiful  dissertation  on  them,  and  sent 
them  to  the  Pope  with  the  inscription.  Holy  Father, 
command  that  these  stones  he  made  bread.  Benedict 
the  Fourteenth  was  a  comfortable  person  who 
loved  a  joke  and  thought  it  worth  its  reward. 
He  replied  by  giving  the  little  Abb^  yet  another 
benefice,  Amalfi,  worth  three  hundred  ducats. 
Then,  of  course,  the  Geological  Academy  of 
Herculaneum  must  do  something  more  for  such  a 

It  2 

'<^  OF  THE   J 



lively  geologist  than  merely  make  him  a  member 
of  its  body :  it  presented  him  with  a  pension. 

In  1758  this  spoilt  child  of  fortune  had  the 
honour  of  composing  Pope  Benedict's  funeral 
oration.  Then  he  was  made  Chancellor  to  the 
King,  and,  in  1759,  Secretary  to  the  Embassy  in 

It  was  the  turning-point  of  his  life,  and  the 
greatest  event  of  his  history.  But  for  that 
appointment,  he  might  have  been  nothing,  after 
all,  but  some  brilliant  little  local  light,  with  his 
sparkling  Southern  talents  only  employed  for  the 
advantage  of  Italy  and  certainly  never  heard  of 
beyond  her  borders.  To  it  he  owed  all  his  fame 
and  the  gayest  and  most  successful  epoch  in  his 
existence.  To  it  the  world  owes  its  picture  of  the 
man  himself,  the  '  Dialogues  on  Corn,'  and  the 
Correspondence  with  Madame  d'fipinay. 

Galiani  was  at  first  pleased  to  go.  But  he  was 
thirty  years  old,  and  had  never  yet  been  out  of  his 
own  country.  She  had  done  generously  by  him, 
and  he  was  extremely  rich.  On  the  other  hand, 
the  secretaryship  involved  further  large  emolu- 
ments, and  Galiani  was  not  one  of  those  rare,  wise 
people  who  know  how  easy  it  is  to  be  rich  enough ; 
he  had  not  learned  from  the  possession  of  money 
how  very  little  it  can  buy.  Paris  was  then  not 
only  the  capital  of  France,  but  the  social  capital  of 


the  world.  She  was  at  the  height  of  her  ancient 
glory.  Ee volutions  had  not  shattered  her  splendid 
buildings  or  the  delicate  fabric  of  the  most  easy, 
polished,  accomplished  society  under  heaven.  She 
was  the  finishing  school  of  Europe.  Her  language 
was  the  language  of  many  Courts,  of  Frederick 
of  Prussia,  and  of  the  letters  of  Catherine  the 
Great.  From  her  printing  presses  she  poured 
forth,  almost  daily,  masterpieces  of  literature,  or 
pamphlets  which  were  to  change  dynasties  and 
shake  kingdoms.  On  her  throne  sat  Louis  the 
Fifteenth,  as  rotten  as  the  society  of  which  he  was 
the  head,  but,  like  that  society,  with  a  rottenness 
covered  by  a  magnificence  which  awed  investiga- 
tion into  silence.  Choiseul  was  the  minister  in 
name,  and  Madame  de  Pompadour  in  reality  ;  and 
over  the  salons^  then  in  the  height  of  their  power 
and  distinction,  presided  women  '  who  in  the  de- 
cline of  their  beauty  revealed  the  dawn  of  their 

Such  a  world  should  have  pleased  Galiani,  or 
any  happy  Southerner  who  loved  to  bask  in  the 
warmth  of  prosperity  and  shrug  his  shoulders  at 
the  possibility  of  future  disaster.  But  at  first  it 
did  not.  He  was  cold  and  homesick.  His  health, 
he  wrote,  would  certainly  not  survive  the  unequal 
chmate.  Foreign  customs,  bad  air,  detestable 
water,  everything  here  is  noxious  to  my   Italian 


temperament !  Then  Choiseul  received  the  petted 
wit  of  the  Neapohtan  parties  coldly,  nonchalantly, 
indifferently.  And  Versailles — Versailles  was  yet 
more  objectionable.  When  Galiani  was  presented 
there  in  June  1760.  with  his  four-and-a-half- 
foot  figure  overladen  with  the  ridiculous  gala 
dress  of  the  period,  the  men  burst  into  open 
laughter  and  the  women  sneered  behind  their  fans. 
Why  should  that  cruel  age,  which  had  no  com- 
passion on  the  helplessness  of  little  children,  on 
poverty,  on  misfortune,  on  weakness,  and  which, 
when  it  did  not  mock  at  moral  suffering,  fled  from 
it  as  from  a  disease  one  might  catch — why  should 
such  an  age  pity  the  sensibilities  of  a  deformed 
little  foreigner,  an  absurd  dwarf  of  an  abbe,  whom 
no  one  in  Paris  (which  is  to  say  the  world)  had 
ever  heard  of  before  ? 

Galiani  was  more  than  a  match  for  the 
laughers.  '  Sire,'  he  said  to  the  King,  '  you  now 
see  only  a  sample  of  the  secretary ;  the  secretary 
will  arrive  later.'  The  King  was  delighted ;  but 
the  secretary  retired  with  that  cruel  laughter 
ringing  in  his  heart.  For  a  whole  year  he 
pleaded  passionately  for  his  recall.  He  wrote 
bitterly  of  the  French  as  '  a  mobile  and  super- 
ficial race  full  at  once  of  passion  and  lightness. 
.  .  .  My  clothes,  my  character,  my  way  of 
thinking,  and  all  my  natural  defects  will  always 


make  me  insupportable  to  this  people  and  to 

From  being  the  most  popular  and  successful 
man  in  Naples,  he  was  in  Paris  the  insignificant 
secretary  at  whom,  as  he  passed  by,  men  mocked 
with  the  tongue  in  the  cheek.  They  did  not 
indeed  mock  for  ever.  His  own  sharp  tongue  was 
bound  to  win  him  respect  and  reputation.  First 
it  was  a  jest  uttered  here  ;  and  then  a  story,  with 
his  own  inimitable  gesticulation,  told  there.  This 
little  secretary  is  going  to  be  amusing  !  Further, 
he  was  always  accompanied  by  his  dme  damnee^ 
the  most  intelligent  of  monkeys,  who  was  only 
something  less  entertaining  than  his  master.  The 
master,  moreover,  could  play  on  the  clavecin,  and 
sing  to  it,  wonderfully.  Even  for  the  Parisians 
of  that  day  his  conversation  was  free,  naif,  un- 
hampered. The  man  has  ideas,  as  we  all  have,  on 
the  liberty  of  the  Press  and  the  Masses,  on  the 
Deluge  that  is  coming  after  us ;  only  he  can  put 
those  ideas  so  that  the  expression  reads  like  a 
romance  or  sounds  like  a  jest ! 

Then  he  was  introduced  to  Baron  Gleichen, 
and  to  Grimm,  the  first  journalist  in  Europe. 
Grimm  made  him  known  to  Madame  d'Epinay  ; 
and  his  acquaintance  with  her,  with  Madame 
Necker,  with  Madame  Geoffrin,  and  with  Made- 
moiselle de  Lespinasse,  implied  an  introduction  to 


the  society  of  all  witty  Paris,  and  of  all  travelling 
England.  He  became  the  friend  of  d'Alembert, 
who  had  just  published  his  '  Elements  of  Philo- 
sophy,'  of  Diderot,  of  d'Holbach,  of  Helvetius,  of 
Morellet,  and  of  Marmontel.  He  met  that  magni- 
ficent icicle,  Saint  Lambert,  still  writing  his 
'  Seasons  '  and  stealing  Madame  d'Houdetot  from 
Eousseau.  He  knew  Suard,  Thomas,  Eaynal,  and 
that  picturesque  and  ill-fated  young  Spaniard,  the 
Marquis  de  Mora. 

In  a  word,  by  1760,  Galiani  was  launched — 
the  gayest  little  skiff  that  ever  danced  into  a 
summer  sea.  The  Parisian  climate  improved  in 
the  twinkling  of  an  eye ;  the  bad  water  became 
drinkable  ;  the  light  and  fickle  people  turned  into 
one  '  loving  and  worthy  to  be  loved.'  Some  fool 
of  a  wit,  who  had  declared  that  the  Abbe  would 
never  succeed  at  Court  because  he  thought  too 
loud  and  spoke  too  low,  must  needs  eat  his  words. 
However  low  he  spoke  now,  the  audience  always 
heard.  They  expected  a  hon  mot  or  a  naivete, 
every  time  he  opened  his  mouth,  and  he  did 
not  disappoint  them.  Instead  of  a  poor  little 
dwarf  from  that  God-forsaken  Naples,  the  secre- 
tary became  'the  prettiest  little  Harlequin  Italy 
has  produced,'  '  the  incomparable  Abbe,'  ^  the 
head  of  Machiavelli,'  '  Machiavellino,'  '  ce  drole  de 
Napolitain,'    '  Plato,  with  the  verve  and  gestures 


of  Harlequin.'  In  a  word,  lie  was  the  mode.  The 
women  raved  about  him — he  understood  them  so 
well ! — and  fought  among  each  other  for  his  pre- 
sence at  their  parties.  If  Choiseul  remained  cold, 
his  Duchess — *  the  gentlest,  amiablest,  civil  little 
creature  that  ever  came  out  of  a  fairy  egg,' 
said  Horace  Walpole — was  as  fond  of  her  Abbe 
as  were  her  society  sisters.  Galiani  was  asked 
everywhere  and  went  everywhere.  He  had  found 
his  true  element  at  last.  How  tame  and  provincial 
the  Neapolitan  parties  looked  now !  How  dull 
and  restricted  were  ambitions  that  limited  one  to 
Italy!  Paris  was  the  theatre  of  Europe — with 
a  crowded  audience  of  all  nations  watching,  half 
laughing  and  half  afraid,  the  next  move  in  her 
breathless  tragi-comedy.  There  was  hardly  ever  a 
more  effective  actor  on  her  boards  than  this  buffoon, 
this  keen-set  httle  wit,  this  jester,  with  here  and 
there,  now  and  then,  as  if  by  accident,  some 
poignant  meaning,  some  thrilling  prophecy  beating 
beneath  his  jests,  and  startling  his  hearers  to  a 
brief  and  sudden  gravity. 

In  spite  of  the  facts  that  Galiani  was  busy 
learning  French,  making  a  Commentary  on  Horace, 
and  working  at  the  duties  of  his  secretaryship  with 
an  entirely  superfluous  energy,  his  social  life  in 
Paris  began  early  in  the  morning.  It  was  his 
custom  to  stop  in  bed  till  the  middle  of  the  day 


and  thus  receive  his  friends;  tenir  son  lit  de  justice, 
he  called  it.  Sometimes  he  would  wrap  himself 
up,  and  sit  on  the  bed  with  his  little  legs  crossed 
like  a  tailor.  He  talked  a  great  deal — a  great 
deal  too  much,  said  some  people;  he  had  no 
'flashes  of  silence.'  When  his  friend  began 
speaking  he  waited  impatiently  to  leap  into  the 
conversation  himself;  and  when  the  friend  at- 
tempted to  make  himself  heard,  '  Let  me  finish,' 
says  the  Abbe,  '  you  will  have  plenty  of  time  to 
answer  me  back ; '  but  he  took  good  care  that  that 
time  never  came.  '  Paris,'  he  used  to  say  regret- 
fully in  later  years,  '  is  the  only  place  where  they 
listened  to  me  ; '  and  one  of  his  biographers  declares 
pathetically  that  he  died  of  '  paroles  rentrees  et  non 

No  wonder  he  was  so  full  of  life  in  the 
French  capital.  The  talk  of  the  morning  was 
always  followed  by  more  talk  in  the  evening. 
On  Thursdays,  it  was  Madame  Geoffrin's  turn 
to  receive.  This  'nurse  of  philosophy,'  this 
calm,  placid,  old  hostess  with  her  quiet,  ortho- 
dox principles,  and  her  prudent,  regular  life, 
could  no  more  help  loving  this  little  libertine 
of  a  wit  than  could  her  lighter  sisters.  He 
was  'her  abbe,  her  little  abbe,  her  petite  chose.' 
As  for  him,  he  loved  her  without  after-thought, 
and  with   the    whole-hearted   impetuosity  of  his 


nature.  He  declared  that  she  inspired  him  with 
wit,  that  her  arm-chairs  were  the  tripods  of 
Apollo  and  he  was  the  Sibyl.  Her  very  primness 
egged  him  on  to  more  reckless  stories,  to  wilder 
buffooneries ;  but  he  went  away  laughing  at  her 
and  loving  her  and  respecting  her,  and  did  all  to 
the  end  of  his  life. 

There  was  another  woman  whom  he  also 
respected,  but  whom  he  did  not  love.  With  her 
one  intense,  overmastering  passion  centred  on  her 
husband,  Madame  Necker  was  for  ever  the  Cal- 
vinist  pastor's  daughter,  '  rigid,  frigid,  and  good.' 
One  female  friend  spoke  of  her  acrimoniously  as 
'  soaked  in  starch,'  and  Galiani  him  self  complained, 
without  by  any  means  intending  a  compliment,  of 
her  'cold  demeanour  of  decency.'  How  such  a 
ribald,  rollicking  person  as  himself  ever  gained 
admittance  to  a  Puritan  household  would  be  a 
wonder  in  our  day  ;  but  in  that  day  if,  as  Galiani 
himself  wrote,  one  was  only  to  know  virtu- 
ous people,  the  number  of  one's  friends  would 
be  alarmingly  reduced.  And — and — Madame 
Necker 's  salon  was  not  for  herself  or  her  acquaint- 
ance ;  it  was  for  her  husband.  Across  the  dinner- 
table  on  those  Fridays  the  lively  and  daring 
Italian  would  defend  with  his  rapid,  reckless 
tongue  the  causes  which  his  heavy  host  could  only 
maintain    with    his    pen.     Leaning   after   dinner 


against  the  chimney  corner,  with  his  sparkling  eyes 
lighting  up  his  keen  pale  face,  with  his  dwarfs 
figure  dressed  always  with  an  infinite  neatness 
and  nicety,  Galiani  would  fight  single-handed  that 
battle  against  the  Economists,  his  own  and  Necker's 
special  antipathies,  and  fight  it,  too,  against  such 
men  as  Thomas,  Eaynal,  and  Morellet.  No  wonder 
Madame  Necker  overlooked  her  visitor's  pecca- 
dilloes. The  little  Abbe  had  such  a  resistless 
torrent  of  logic !  If  the  other  side  had  reason 
in  its  favour,  no  one  had  a  chance  of  advancing 
that  reason.  Directly  anyone  else  began  to  talk, 
Galiani  slipped  away,  and,  there  being  no  Opposi- 
tion, Parliament  rose. 

After  the  orthodoxy  of  Madame  GeofFrin  and 
the  decency  of  Madame  Necker,  the  gatherings 
of  Baron  d'Holbach  at  Grandval  might  have  been 
supposed  to  have  afibrded  Galiani  an  agreeable 
contrast.  Not  content  with  disbelieving  himself, 
the  Baron's  scepticism  was  of  that  eager  and 
proselytising  kind  which  must  for  ever  be  destroy- 
ing the  faith  of  others.  He  delivered  himself  of 
it  with  a  daring  irreverence  that  made  even  the 
Italian  Abbe  shudder,  though,  heaven  knows  I  he 
talked  freely  enough  himself,  and  had  listened  to 
free  enough  talk  from  others.  He  was  here,  as 
he  had  been  at  the  Neckers',  almost  alone  in  the 
Opposition.     It  delighted  him  to  lean  over   the 


table  and  assure  these  persons  who  were  for  push- 
ing throne  and  Church,  King  and  priest,  down  the 
abyss  as  fast  as  might  be,  that  he  loved  despotism, 
'  bien  cru,  bien  vert,  bien  ^pre.'  It  was  Galiani 
who  alone  perceived  that  these  wild  theories,  con- 
ceived in  salons^  must,  when  translated  into  deeds, 
first  of  all  destroy  those  who  conceived  them,  and 
that  a  change  in  the  Constitution,  which  might  be 
a  very  beautiful  thing  when  done,  was  a  very  vile 
thing  in  the  doing.  '  It  worries  two  or  three 
generations,'  he  said,  '  and  only  obliges  posterity. 
Posterity  is  merely  a  possibility,  and  we  are  reali- 
ties. And  why  should  realities  put  themselves 
out  for  possibilities  ? ' 

One  day  at  d'Holbach's,  the  conversation  on 
the  Deity  became  so  outrageous,  that,  with  every 
man's  hand  against  him,  Galiani  rose.  '  Messieurs 
les  Philosophes,'  says  he,  '  you  go  too  fast.  If  I 
were  the  Pope,  I  should  hand  you  over  to  the 
Inquisition  ;  if  the  King,  to  the  Bastille.  But  as  I 
have  the  good  luck  to  be  neither,  I  shall  come  to 
dinner  next  Thursday,  and  you  shall  listen  to  me 
as  patiently  as  I  have  listened  to  you.' 

Thursday  came.  After  dinner  and  coffee,  the 
Abbe  takes  an  armchair,  crosses  his  legs,  removes 
his  wig  (the  night  being  sultry),  and,  with  those 
lively  gesticulations  which  he  can  no  more  help 
than  he  can  help  breathing,  tells  a  story. 


'Please  suppose,  gentlemen,  that  one  of  you, 
who  is  the  most  convinced  that  this  world  is  the 
result  of  chance,  happens  to  be  playing  at  dice, 
not  in  a  gambling  hell  but  in  one  of  the  best 
houses  in  Paris.  His  adversary,  casting  one,  two, 
three,  four — many  times — always  throws  number 
six.  After  the  game  has  gone  on  a  little  while, 
my  friend  Diderot,  we  will  say,  who  is  losing  his 
money,  will  certainty  call  out,  "The  dice  are 
cogged !  This  is  some  swindlers'  den ! "  What, 
philosopher,  what  ?  Because  ten  or  twelve  throws 
of  dice  come  out  of  the  box  so  that  you  lose  half  a 
dozen  francs,  you  are  firmly  convinced  that  this  is 
the  result  of  a  clever  design,  an  artificial  combi- 
nation, a  complicated  roguery ;  and  yet,  seeing  in 
the  universe  a  mighty  number  of  combinations  a 
thousand  times  more  difficult,  more  complicated, 
and  more  useful,  you  do  not  suspect  that  Nature's 
dice  are  also  cogged,  and  that  above  there  is  a 
great  Arranger  ? ' 

It  was  a  most  happy  illustration,  if  not  a 
convincing  argument.  But  the  age  which  was 
swayed  by  the  eloquence  of  Eousseau  always  pre- 
ferred an  example  to  a  reason:  while  the  class 
who  laughed  later  at  'The  Marriage  of  Figaro' 
might  certainly  be  counted  on  to  enjoy  a  joke 
against  itself. 

There    was    a    fourth    salon    where     Galiani 


was  much  more  at  home  than  at  Grandval, 
or  under  the  prim  wings  of  Madame  Necker  or 
the  motherly  feathers  of  Madame  GeoiFrin.  At 
Madame  d'Epinay's  alone,  he  was  perfectly 
natural,  his  rollicking,  buffooning,  all-daring  self, 
able,  as  only  a  Southerner  is  able,  to  make  him- 
self entirely  ridiculous  without  being  at  all  con- 

Madame  d'Epinay  was  that  clever  wife  of  a 
ruined  Farmer  General,  who  had  been  petted  by 
Eousseau,  and  played  with  by  Voltaire.  Madame 
d'Houdetot  was  her  sister-in-law ;  Diderot  was  her 
constant  associate  ;  Grimm  was  her  lover ;  and 
Galiani  became,  and  remained  for  twenty  years, 
her  most  sincere  and  admiring  friend. 

A  Platonic  friendship  is  perhaps  only  possible 
when  one  or  other  of  the  Platonists  is  in  love  with 
a  third  person.  Grimm,  with  his  well-regulated 
head  and  heart,  was  not  only  perfectly  able  to 
keep  a  fickle  woman  true  to  him,  but  himself 
to  retain  an  honest  regard  for  the  Abbe  and  to 
use  his  opinions  and  his  wit  for  the  '  Literary 

Madame  d'Epinay's  salon  was  of  all  salons  the 
most  thoroughly  characteristic  of  the  time  and  the 
people.  No  one  had  any  duty  but  to  amuse  him- 
self. From  early  in  the  morning,  a  few  charming 
and  accomphshed  women,  who  always  relegated 


their  children  to  servants,  their  stupid  husbands 
to  oblivion,  and  their  households  to  chance,  talked 
delightfully  over  their  embroidery  (with  which  the 
fashion  demanded  they  should  toy)  to  men,  of 
whom  among  many  astounding  characteristics,  not 
the  least  astounding  is  their  prodigious  idleness 
coupled  with  their  prodigious  literary  production. 

Galiani  himself  was  the  greatest  attraction 
Madame  d'Epinay's  circle  could  claim.  When  he 
came  in  on  a  dripping  country  afternoon  at  La 
Chevrette,  or  in  some  murky  winter  twilight  in 
Paris,  there  came  with  him,  said  Diderot,  light, 
brightness,  gaiety,  folly,  mirth — everything  which 
makes  one  forget  the  cares  of  life.  Mademoiselle 
d'Ette,  who  was  at  once  her  hostess's  worst  and 
dearest  friend,  looked  up  from  her  embroidery 
frame  with  her  stealthy  eyes  aglow  to  welcome  an 
acquisition  so  delightful.  Madame  d'Epinay  was, 
as  ever,  gay,  caressing,  insouciante.  Diderot  was 
in  ecstasies  (he  was  always  in  an  ecstasy  about 
something)  at  the  little  Italian's  arrival.  He  was 
a  perfect  treasure  on  a  wet  day !  If  the  toy-shops 
made  Galianis,  everybody  would  buy  one  I 

The  Abbe  takes  his  seat,  cross-legged  as  usual, 
and  from  that  head  which  was  *a  library  of 
anecdotes,'  reels  out  a  dozen  stories,  acting  them 
all  with  an  inimitable  hveliness,  while  his  hearers 
laugh  till  they  cry. 


A  few  of  those  stories  sound  dull  in  print,  or 
have  lost  point  with  their  youth  ;  many  more  dis- 
gust  modern   taste   by   their    elegant  indecency. 
But   the   man  who   dubbed   Paris,   'the  Cafe  de 
r Europe,'  d'Holbach,  '  the  maitre  dJhotel  of  philo- 
sophy,' and  the  vaunted  liberty  of  the  Apostles  of 
the  Social  Contract,  'the  right  of  interfering  in 
other  people's  business,'  still  proves  his  title  of 
wit.     It  was  Galiani  too  who  defined  the  death  of 
Maria  Theresa  as  '  an  ink-bottle  spilt  over  the  map 
of  Europe ; '  and  Sophie  Arnould's  exquisite  lost 
voice   as   '  the   most  beautiful   asthma '  he   ever 
heard.     It  was  Galiani  who  said  that  suffering  was 
the  cart-horse,  and   ennui  the  horse  in  the  rich 
man's  stable.    It  was  Galiani  who  declared  that  the 
Jesuits  lengthened  the  Creed  and  shortened  the 
Decalogue  that  they  might  succeed  better  in  the 
world,  and  Galiani  who  affirmed  that  the  priests 
had  changed   the   name  of  the  Sacrament  from 
Penitence  to  Confession,  because  they  thought  it 
sufficient  to  avow  their   sins   without  correcting 
them.     Finally,  it  was  Galiani  who   proved  that 
he  knew  intimately  one  side  of  the  life  around 
him,  when   he   declared  that  the  women  of  the 
eighteenth  century  loved   with   their  minds,  not 
with  their  hearts. 

Always  inimitably  good-humoured,  never  bored, 
never  weary,  ready  to  play  on  the  clavecin  or  sing 




in  the  most  charming  voice  in  the  world  if  the 
audience  should  tire  of  his  conversation,  seeing 
the  ridiculous  side  of  any  subject  in  a  flash,  prompt 
with  an  anecdote  to  fit  the  most  unforeseen  occa- 
sion— '  the  little  creature  born  at  the  foot  of  Vesu- 
vius,' clown,  harlequin,  Punchinello  —  whatever 
men  called  him — was,  and  is,  without  counter- 
part in  social  history.  There  will  be  and  have 
been — there  certainly  were  in  the  eighteenth  cen- 
tury— many  agreeable  young  gentlemen  who  not 
only  often  dined  out,  but  who  entirely  lived  and 
fattened  on  a  pretty  taste  in  stories  and  hons  mots, 
and  a  constant  readiness  to  make  fools  of  them- 
selves for  the  benefit  of  an  idle  audience  afraid 
of  being  bored  ;  but  there  was  rarely,  if  ever,  a 
buffoon  of  such  vast  and  solid  erudition,  of  mental 
capacities  so  great  and  so  varied,  and  of  mental 
achievements  so  momentous,  as  the  Abbe  Galiani. 
While  the  salons  were  petting  and  spoiling  him, 
while  he  seemed  to  be  doing  nothing  but  talk  from 
morning  till  night  and  from  night  until  morning, 
while  he  was  regarded  as  such  a  complete  and 
irresistible  joke  that  people  laughed  at  his  very 
name,  he  had  yet  worked  so  hard  as  Secretary  to 
the  Embassy  and  Charge  d' Affaires  that  he  raised 
the  whole  diplomatic  corps  to  a  worthier  posi- 
tion, and  advanced  the  interests  of  Naples  with 
a  steadiness  and  persistency  usually  allotted  to  a 


very  different  character.  His  Majesty  Louis  the 
Fifteenth  presented  him  with  a  box  set  in  dia- 
monds. Choiseul's  light  indifference  changed  into 
a  cool  consideration.  All  the  time  the  man  was 
writing,  observing,  thinking.  Was  he  a  politician 
pour  rire  ?  He  seemed  to  be  everything  pour  rire. 
But  after  all,  who  knows  ?  The  men  who  had 
laughed  the  most  heartily  at  his  absurdities,  turned 
and  looked  at  him  again  with  a  wonder  in  their 

In  1765  he  obtained  a  year's  leave  of  absence 
and  went  home  to  take  the  baths  of  Ischia.  In 
1766,  on  the  invitation  of  the  Marquis  Caraccioli, 
Italian  Ambassador,  he  went  to  stay  in  London. 

It  must  be  recorded  regretfully  that  the  Abbe 
did  not  find  Britain  or  the  British  at  all  to   his 
taste.     David  Hume  said  indignantly  that  though 
he  only   remained   two   months   in  our  country, 
talked  himself  the   whole   time,   and   would  not 
allow  an  Englishman  to  put  in  a  word,  yet  when   : 
he  came  away  he  dogmatised  on  the  character  of   i 
the  nation  all  the  rest  of  his  life  as  if  he  had  never   '^ 
studied  anything  else.     That  he  did  not  share  the 
Anglomania  of  Voltaire  is  certainly  true.     Some 
years  later,  to  one  of  his  correspondents,  he  defined 
the  English  rather  happily  as  '  the  best  educated 
nation  in  the  world,  and  consequently  the  greatest, 
the  most  troublesome,  and  the  most  melancholy.' 



But  some  at  least  of  his  letters  abuse  England  very 
freely.  It  was,  no  doubt,  as  difficult  for  the 
Britons  to  understand  a  Galiani  as  for  a  Galiani 
to  understand  them ;  and  not  at  all  wonderful  that 
he  carried  away  from  our  shores  an  impression  of 
an  Englishman  as  a  solid,  emotionless  person,  who 
resented  buffoonery  as  an  insult,  never  uttered  a  joke 
or  saw  one,  and  had  all  the  qualities  which  make 
a  nation  mighty  and  an  individual  disagreeable. 

The  Abbe  was  a  somewhat  graver  man  him- 
self when  he  came  back  to  Paris.  He  was  now 
thirty-eight  years  old,  a  little  less  free  of  tongue, 
a  thought  less  sceptical  in  religion.  His  letters 
of  the  time  contain  grave  observations  on  the 
Seven  Years'  War,  and  on  the  condition  of  the 
Paris  Parliament.  But  he  was  still  about  the 
salons,  still  Parisian  to  the  finger-tips,  and  he  still 
loved  Paris  from  his  soul. 

And  in  1769,  like  a  clap  of  thunder,  came  the 
foudroyant  news  of  his  recall  to  Naples. 

Eecalled!  The  hostesses  of  Paris  looked  at 
each  other  in  dismay.  Eecalled !  It  is  surely  the 
end  of  all  things  if  some  political  exigency,  some 
party  question,  is  allowed  to  interfere  with  our 
amusements  Hke  this !  Is  it  Choiseul,  who  has  pro- 
tected the  Economists,  while  Galiani  hated  them, 
who  has  done  this  thing  ?  The  exact  reason  for  it 
was  then  matter  of  speculation,  and  is  so  still. 


It  was  enough,  more  than  enough,  that  it  was  a 
fact  that  this  dear,  merry,  little  Abbe  must  pack 
up  his  trunks  and  go  out  of  light  into  darkness, 
out  of  the  sunshine  of  social  favour  in  which  he 
had  basked  and  purred  and  gambolled,  into  the 
gloom  of  the  provincial  obscurity  from  which  he 
had  come. 

If  Paris  was  struck  with  dismay,  Galiani  him- 
self was  overwhelmed  by  the  greatest  calamity  of 
his  life.  He  declared  that  he  had  never  wept  at 
anything,  not  even  the  death  of  his  relations,  so 
much  as  at  leaving  Paris.  '  They  have  torn  me  ] 
from  Paris,'  he  cried,  '  and  they  have  torn  out 
my  heart.'  He  swore  that  the  only  good  thing  ] 
that  wearisome  Mr.  Sterne,  the  English  author, 
'  ever  uttered  was  when  he  said  to  me,  "  It  is 
better  to  die  in  Paris  than  to  live  in  Naples." ' 
He  wrung  his  hands,  and  bemoaned  out  loud, 
according  to  his  temperament.  He  followed  his 
departure  by  letters  to  Madame  d'fipinay  and  to 
d'Alembert  which  are  really  pathetic.  He  was 
also  leaving  behind  him  in  Paris  a  woman  to  whom 
he  was  tied  by  an  attachment,  not  Platonic.  He 
was  torn,  in  brief,  from  everything — friends  and 
mistress,  career,  work,  play — ^life  itself.  No  wonder 
despair  seized  his  soul.  He  went,  and  in  parting 
flung  into  the  camp  of  the  Economists,  whom  he 
believed  to  be  the  enemy  responsible  for  his  over- 


throw,  a  bomb  whose  explosion  rang  through 

In  1770  there  appeared  in  Paris  the  '  Dialogues 
on  the  Corn  Trade.'  The  taxation  of,  or  free 
trade  in,  grain  had  long  been  a  vexed  question, 
not  only  in  the  minds  of  politicians  but  in  the 
minds  of  all  intelligent  Frenchmen.  Free  Food ! 
cried  the  Economist,  rich  in  the  support  of  Turgot 
and  of  Choiseul.  Tax  it !  replied  their  opponents, 
mighty  with  the  strength  of  Terrai,  the  graceless 
Controller-General,  and  the  growing  influence  of 

Through  the  wit  and  the  parties,  in  the  midst  of 
ardent  secretarial  duties  and  of  continual  literary 
studies,  somehow,  at  some  time — though  how  and 
at  what  time  it  would  be  difficult  to  say — Galiani 
had  brought  to  bear  on  the  question  his  Italian 
shrewdness  and  brilliancy,  all  the  learning  and 
observation  taught  him  by  his  uncle,  and  the 
judgment  and  the  wisdom  taught  him  by  Heaven. 
No  man  would  have  believed  that  such  a  merry, 
light,  social  person  could  have  pondered  so  deeply ; 
no  one  had  believed  it.  The  book  was  in  the  form 
of  a  dialogue  between  a  Marquis  and  a  Chevalier. 
It  was  as  gay  and  rollicking  as  the  little  Abbe's 
own  talk.  In  fact,  it  was  his  own  talk ;  but  it  was 
something  much  more.  It  was  much  more  even 
than  a  pamphlet  on  a  passing  question,  on  a  matter 


of  local  momentary  importance,     '  Eead  between 
the  lines  and  in  the  margin,'  it  was  an  able  work 
on  the  science  of  government,  what  Grimm  called 
justly  'the  production  of  a  sound  and  enlightened 
philosopher,  and  of  a  statesman.'     In  it  the  author 
exposed  his  theory  that  a  man  of  State  must  know 
not   only   his   business    but  the   human  heart —  ^ 
'  You  must  study  men  before  you  can  rule  them.'  | 
This   knowledge   he   denied  to   Turgot ;    and  he  | 
warned  France,  in  solemn  prophecy  to  be  fulfilled' 
too  soon,  to  beware  in  her  rulers,  not  the  rogues 
and   the   knaves — they  soon  show  themselves  in 
their   true   colours — but   I'honnete  homme  trompL 
'  He  wishes  all  men  well,  so  all  men  trust  him ; 
but  he  is  deceived  as  to  the  means  of  doing  well.' 

The  work  was  received  with  the  wildest  enthu-  *' 
siasm.  In  far  Ferney,  the  spirited  old  Patriarch 
of  Literature  jumped  for  joy,  almost  literally,  at 
a  wit  and  a  style  so  inimitable.  No  man  ever 
reasoned  so  agreeably  before.  ...  'No  man  \ 
has  ever  made  famine  so  amusing.  ...  If  the 
work  does  not  diminish  the  price  of  bread,  it  will 
give  pleasure  to  the  whole  nation.  .  .  .  Plato 
and  Moliere  have  combined  to  write  it.  .  .  .' 
Excellent !  excellent !  And  in  the  same  year,  1770, 
the  master  himself  wrote  for  his  '  Questions  on  the 
Encyclopaedia '  the  article  on  Grain  wherein  Galiani 
was  not  forgotten. 


Diderot,  who,  with  Grimm  and  Madame  d'fipi- 
nay,  had  helped  to  correct  the  proofs  of  the 
'  Dialogues,'  declared  impetuously  to  Mademoiselle 
Volland  that  he  had  gone  down  on  his  knees  to 
implore  Galiani  to  publish  them.  Grimm  said  that 
if  he  were  Controller- General  he  should  attach  the 
Abbe  to  France,  if  it  cost  the  King  forty  thousand 
livres  per  annum,  '  without  any  other  stipulation 
but  that  he  should  amuse  himself  and  come  twice 
a  week  to  chat  with  me  over  the  affairs  of  my 
Government.'  Even  Freron,  filie  Freron,  the 
brilliant  Parisian  journalist,  who  hated  Voltaire 
and  consequently  all  Voltaire's  colleagues  and 
disciples,  could  not  help  praising  the  thing  in  his 
''  Literary  Year.'  Frederick  the  Great  wrote  the 
author  a  flattering  letter. 

The  book's  foes  advertised  it  even  better  than 
its  friends.  At  first,  the  leaders  in  the  Economist 
camp  looked  at  each  other  in  dismay.  Granted 
that  they  had  justice  and  reason  on  their  side, 
what  could  justice  and  reason  do  in  the  Paris  of 
1770  against  that  bubbhng,  sparkling  wit?  The 
capital  must,  first  of  all,  be  amused.  What  use, 
then,  to  advance  the  always  doubtful  argument 
that  a  writer  cannot  be  at  once  gay  and  trust- 
worthy, that  if  he  is  really  worth  hearing  he  can 
never  be  heard  without  a  yawn  ? 

The  Abbe  Morellet,   as   large  as  Galiani  was 


small,  and  as  ponderous  in  style  as  the  Abbe  was 
light,  was  employed  to  answer  him.  The  good 
man  wrote  his  refutation  with  such  haste  and 
ardour  that  the  skin  of  his  little  finger  was  com- 
pletely worn  off  from  much  rubbing  against  the  side 
of  his  desk.  And,  after  all,  no  one  read  him.  He 
may,  or  may  not,  be  right ;  he  is  certainly  dull ! 

Then  Turgot  took  up  a  mightier  pen  and 
wielded  a  mightier  influence.  Noble  and  disin- 
terested, a  better  and  a  greater  man  than  Galiani, 
the  Statesman  of  that  company  of  which  the 
Abbe  was  but  the  Wit,  Turgot  sought,  as  did 
Galiani,  the  good  and  the  progress  of  humanity ; 
but  he  sought  it  by  a  diiferent  road,  and  by  the 
labour  of  his  whole  life.  He  recognised  the  clever- 
ness of  the  book  ;  a  bad  cause,  said  he,  could  not 
be  maintained  with  more  grace  and  cleverness. 
But  my  little  brother  the  Abbe  is  wrong,  not  the 
less.  In  the '  Dialogues '  there  peeped  out,  thought 
Turgot,  something  of  the  comfortable  indifierence 
of  those  who  are  content  to  leave  the  world  as  it  is 
because  it  goes  so  smoothly  with  them,  something  / 
of  the  laziness  and  the  selfishness  that  come 
naturally  to  a  little  writer  himself  so  comfortably 
beneficed  and  mitred.  Galiani  lacked,  in  fact, 
Turgot's  'instincts  of  the  heart  which  teach  the 

Eight    or    wrong  —  Vhonnete    homme    trompe 


perhaps — Turgot  had  put  his  soul  into  the  great 
cause  of  humanity,  and  Galiani  had  only  put  his 
mind.  What  wonder  that  they  saw  the  same 
world  with  different  eyes,  and  would  have  worked 
out  the  salvation  of  faUing  France,  by  methods  not 
only  opposite  but  opposed  ? 

Galiani  went  back  to  Naples.  For  many  months, 
for  years,  his  letters  are  full  of  his  book,  that  effort 
which,  even  if  misdirected,  proved  that  he  was  no 
drone  in  the  hive,  that  he  too  had  that  one  great 
virtue  common  to  all  the  philosophers  and  redeem- 
ing half  their  sins — he  had  heard  the  trumpet-call 
of  responsibility  towards  his  fellows,  and  had 
answered  it. 

After  Paris,  Naples  was  not  merely  dull,  it  was 
extinction.  The  poor  little  Abbe  bemoaned  his 
fate  to  Madame  d'Epinay  in  the  most  touching  of 
all  jesting  letters.  True,  there  was  society  here, 
and  Galiani  was  its  lion.  But  what  society !  There 
was  Lady  Orford,  Eobert  Walpole's  daughter-in- 
law,  who  had  a  country  house  close  to  Galiani's  at 
Santo  Sorio,  at  the  foot  of  Vesuvius,  and  there 
was  Sir  William  Hamilton,  now  British  envoy  and, 
to  be,  the  husband  of  Lady  Hamilton.  Presently 
there  came,  too,  the  Marquis  of  Lansdowne,  who 
was  amiable,  which,  said  Galiani,  '  is  a  very  rare 
thing  for  an  Englishman,  and  Secretary  of  State, 
which  is  a  very  common  thing.' 


But  the  Abbe  hated  the  English ;  and  he  was 
bored  to  death.  The  Court  of  Naples  gave  him 
more  lucrative  posts — and  though  he  described 
himself  as  avide  without  being  avare,  which  meant 
that  he  was  greedy  of  money  and  yet  lavish  in 
spending  it — money,  even  w^hen  it  does  not  beget 
ennui^  certainly  never  destroys  it.  He  turned  to 
his  museum  full  of  medals  and  bronzes,  pictures 
and  weapons — and  that  bored  him  too.  Paris, 
Paris  !  He  hankered  after  it  for  ever.  '  What  is 
the  good  of  inoculation  here,'  he  grumbled,  after 
expressing  delight  in  that  discovery,  '  when  living 
itself  is  not  worth  while? '  '  What  a  life  ! '  he  wrote 
dismally  to  d'Holbach  in  1770.  'Nothing  amusing 
here  ...  no  edicts  ...  no  suspensions  of  pay- 
ment ...  no  quarrels  about  anything — not  even 
about  religion.     Dear  Paris,  how  I  regret  you  ! ' 

In  1771  died  there  that  Madame  Daubiniere  to 
whom  he  had  been  attached  by  no  Platonic  tie,  and 
whom  he  had  not  hesitated  to  recommend  to  the 
good  offices  of  Madame  d'Epinay ;  and  in  the  same 
year  the  death  of  Helvetius,  the  rich  and  amiable 
ex-Farmer-General,  '  left  a  blank  in  the  line  of  our 
battalion.'  'Let  us  love  each  other  the  better, 
we  who  remain,'  says  Galiani.  '  Close  the  lines. 
Advance  !  Fire ! '  He  was  always  declaring  he  had 
no  heart ;  but  it  was  there,  under  the  lava  of  world- 
liness  and  mockery,  as  Pompeii  and  Herculaneum 


lay  hid  beneath  the  lava  of  his  own  Vesuvius. 
He  was  soon  busy  procuring  a  post  at  Court  for 
his  unsuccessful  brother  Bernard — Bernard,  who 
had  a  large  family,  little  money,  and  the  dull 
bookworm  talents  that  bring  no  more.  Then 
Bernard  died,  and  up  starts  the  Abbe  in  a  new 
role.  There  are  three  stupid  nieces  to  be  married, 
to  say  nothing  of  the  widow !  The  indefatigable 
uncle  found  the  girls  eligible  husbands,  although 
one  of  them,  as  he  wrote  frankly,  was  as  ugly  as  a 
hunchback.  Then  he  discovered  some  one  to  marry 
his  sister-in-law.  '  If  this  goes  on,'  he  wrote  to 
Madame  d'Epinay,  '  people  will  clap  when  I  go  into 
my  box  at  the  theatre.' 

Presently  the  King  of  Naples  gave  him  yet  two 
more  posts — entailing  not  only  emoluments  but 
work — and  he  resumed  his  literary  labours,  wrote 
a  pamphlet  on  the  '  Instincts  and  Habitual  Tastes 
of  Man,'  a  comic  opera,  to  Paisiello's  music, 
called  '  The  Imaginary  Socrates,'  and  another  most 
amusing  pamphlet,  written  in  a  single  night,  to 
distract  the  Neapolitans  from  their  fright  on  the 
eruption  of  Vesuvius  in  1779. 

In  1781  he  visited  Eome,  and  was  courted  by 
all  the  great  people;  and  when  he  came  home 
Naples  gave  him  another  rich  abbey  and  another 
most  lucrative  civil  appointment.  He  was  still  a 
comparatively  young  man.     Fortune  had  over- 


turned  her  horn  at  his  feet.  '  The  torment  of  all 
things  accomplished,  the  plague  of  nought  to 
desire/  might  well  have  been  Galiani's.  But  he 
had  the  rare  power  of  finding  happiness  where 
it  most  often  hides — in  small  and  common  things. 
The  monkey  which  had  amused  his  leisure  he  had 
replaced  by  a  couple  of  cats,  and  it  afforded  him 
infinite  amusement  to  watch  their  gambols  and 
their  habits,  and  write  long  dissertations  on  the 
natural  history  of  the  animal  to  Madame  d'fipinay 
in  Paris. 

His  friendship  with  her  had  lasted  without 
break  or  blot  for  nearly  five-and-twenty  years. 
If  happiness  meant  only  exemption  from  suffering, 
then  well  for  Galiani  that  no  woman  ever  held  his 
heart  more  nearly  than  this  light,  bright,  irre- 
sponsible little  person.  But  that  side  of  existence 
which  brings  the  deepest  sorrow  brings  too  the 
highest  joy,  and  who  is  spared  the  first,  misses  the 
second.  Madame  Daubiniere  had  touched  neither 
his  soul  nor  his  life  ;  Madame  d'Epinay  only  aroused 
a  capacity  for  a  friendship  which,  as  he  loved  no 
one,  had  certainly  assumed  some  of  the  absorption 
of  a  passion.  When  she  died  in  1783,  he  stood 
in  the  presence  of  a  great  and  a  most  genuine 
sorrow.  She  had  represented  the  Paris  he  would 
see  no  more ;  to  answer  her  letters  had  been  a 
large  occupation  in  his  life — and  she  was  dead! 


He  turned  to  his  work  as  his  last  hope,  to  the  one 
means  that  was  left  of  making  life  endurable.  In 
1785  he  was  attacked  by  apoplexy,  and  two  years 
later  he  travelled  for  his  health.  But  it  was  not 
improved.  '  The  dead  are  so  bored,'  he  said  in  his 
old  jesting  manner ;  '  they  have  asked  me  to  come 
and  cheer  them  a  little.' 

In  the  October  of  1787  the  King  and  Queen  of 
Naples  commanded  him  to  meet  them  at  Portici. 
He  went,  but  he  was  long  past  receiving  pleasure 
from  such  honours.  The  Sovereigns  were  struck 
with  his  altered  appearance,  and  begged  him  to 
consult  a  doctor.  Queen  Caroline  wrote  him  a 
letter  imploring  him  to  renounce  his  scepticism 
and  make  ready  for  heaven.  He  answered  with 
dignity  and  respect ;  but  no  physician  for  either 
the  soul  or  the  body  could  aid  him  now.  He 
kept  his  gaiety  to  the  last.  As  he  had  loved  in 
life  to  be  surrounded  by  friends,  they  were  about 
his  deathbed.  He  declared  to  them  that  he  felt 
no  sorrow  in  dying,  save  that  he  would  fain  have 
lived  to  publish  his  book  on  Horace.  The  night 
before  his  death  Gatti,  his  friend  and  doctor,  told 
him  he  had  refused  an  invitation  to  the  opera 
from  the  Ambassador  of  France  to  be  near  his 
friend.  '  Ah,'  says  Galiani,  '  you  still  look  on  me 
as  Harlequin  ?  Well,  perhaps  I  shall  prove  more 
amusing  than  the  opera.'     And  he  did.     Two  hours 


before  his  death  General  Acton,  the  Prime  Minister, 
called  to  see  him.  '  Tell  his  Excellency  I  cannot 
receive  him.  My  carriage  is  at  the  door.  Warn 
him  to  prepare  his  own.' 

He  died  on  October  30, 1787,  aged  nearly  fifty- 

Dagonet,  King's  Fool  at  Arthur's  Court,  could 
not  avert  his  master's  ruin,  but,  noblest  of  all 
Fools,  he  tried.  Galiani,  with  his  laughing  bells 
jingling  in  those  'Dialogues,'  spoke  his  message 
in  jests  and  could  not  help  starving  France,  nor 
even  postpone  by  an  hour  the  raid  on  the  bakers' 
shops  in  the  Faubourg  St.  Antoine.  But  he,  too, 
did  his  best. 



The  proverb  is  indigenous  to  Spain,  verse  to  Italy, 
and  the  aphorism  to  France.  In  that  form  of 
speech  in  which,  in  Vauvenargues'  own  words. 
La  Eochefoucauld  had  'turned  men  from  virtue 
by  persuading  them  that  it  is  never  genuine,' 
Vauvenargues  vindicated  human  goodness,  showed 
man  that  the  best  way  to  reform  the  world  is  to 
reform  himself,  and  taught  him  how  to  use  the 
freedom  Voltaire  gave  him. 

In  his  delicate  thoughtfulness,  in  his  convic- 
tion that  man's  happiness  depends  upon  his 
character  and  not  upon  his  circumstances,  in  his 
mistrust  of  the  cold  god,  Eeason,  and  his  belief 
in  the  soundness  of  the  intuitions  of  the  heart, 
Vauvenargues  stands  alone  among  his  compeers. 
He  stands  alone,  too,  among  them  in  his  personal 
nearness  to  Voltaire's  affections.  The  noblest 
testimony  to  Vauvenargues'  character  is  that  it 
compelled  the  reverence  of  him  who  reverenced 

From  a  Print  in  the  Bibliotheqxie  Nationale,  Paris. 






nothing;  and  the  finest  compliment  ever  paid  to 
Voltaire  was  to  be  loved  by  a  Vauvenargues. 

Born  on  August  6,  1715,  at  Aix  in  Pro- 
vence— in  a  mean  house  which  still  stands  and 
is  to-day  a  grocer's  shop — Luc  de  Vauvenargues 
came  of  a  poor  family  of  provincial  noblesse  and 
was  from  the  first  what  he  remained  to  the  last, 
delicate  in  constitution  and  with  limited  prospects 
of  worldly  success. 

His  very  imperfect  education  he  received  at 
the  College  of  Aix,  where  his  small  Latin  and  less 
Greek  were  frequently  interrupted  by  ill  health. 
But  he  had  a  possession  which  is  in  itself  an 
education — a  good  father. 

Joseph  de  Clapiers  had  been  created  Marquis 
de  Vauvenargues  in  1722,  when  Luc  was  seven 
years  old,  for  having  been  the  only  magistrate  in 
Aix  who  did  not  run  away  from  the  place  and  his 
duty  when  a  pestilence  devastated  the  country- 
side in  1720. 

For  companions,  Luc  had  two  younger 
brothers  and  a  cousin  of  his  own  age,  a  coarse, 
clever,  selfish,  undisciplined  boy,  named  Victor 
Eiquetti  Mirabeau,  who  was  to  become  the 
'  crabbed  old  Friend  of  Men '  and  the  great  father 
of  a  greater  son.  The  boys  had  little  in  common 
but  genius,  and  were  attracted  to  each  other  by 



their  very  unlikeness.  At  sixteen,  Luc  was  reading 
with  passionate  transport  that '  splendid  painting  of 
virtue'  'Plutarch's  Lives'  (in  a  translation)  and 
then  the  letters  of  Brutus  to  Caesar,  'so  filled 
with  dignity,  loftiness,  passion,  and  courage,'  said 
he,  '  that  I  never  could  read  them  calmly.'  Victor 
had  already  plunged  into  that  blusterous,  incon- 
tinent life  which  was  to  bring  ruin  to  his  own 
family  and  quite  spoil  the  effect  of  his  loud-voiced 
schemes  for  the  good  of  mankind. 

When  both  were  seventeen  the  pair  parted  for 
a  while.  Luc  must  choose  one  of  the  only  two 
professions  open  to  his  caste — the  Church  or  the 
Army.  The  Church  would  not  do,  because,  boy 
though  he  was,  he  was  already  philosopher  and 
thinker — ay,  in  the  noblest  sense  of  the  word — 
free-thinker  too.  Then  it  must  be  the  Army! 
Picture  this  new  subaltern  of  the  King's  Own 
Eegiment,  in  the  loveliest  pale  grey  uniform,  faced 
with  Eoyal  blue,  with  the  most  splendid  braidings, 
and  the  very  buttonholes  sewn  with  gold  silk, 
with  his  tall,  boyish  figure,  his  handsome  face,  his 
'  proud  and  pensive  grace  '—for  all  the  world  like 
the  soldier-hero  of  a  woman's  novel.  But  he  was 
already  something  very  different  from  that.  The 
handsome  face  bespoke  a  noble  nature,  ambitious 
for  all  great  things,  strong  and  ready  to  begin  the 
world,  to  play  his  part  therein  if  it  be  the  part  of 


a  man  of  Deeds  alone — or  if  the  Deeds  be  but 
foundation  for  the  Thoughts. 

His  first  campaign  was  in  Italy  in  1733  with 
Marshal  Villars,  who  was  on  his  last.  Italy !  the 
land  of  dreams  !  The  boy  was  filled  with  splendid 
visions  of  following  Hannibal  across  the  mountains 
— with  young  sanguine  hopes  of  gloriously  doing 
his  duty  and  meeting  immediate,  glorious  rewards. 
For  three  years  he  knew  the  intoxication — and 
the  horrors — of  a  victorious  campaign.  And  then 
of  a  sudden  he  found  himself  condemned  at 
one-and-twenty  to  the  vicious  idleness,  the  low 
pleasures,  and  the  deadening  routine  of  a  garrison 
life.  The  rich  oflScers  were  of  course  drawn  by 
that  magnet,  the  Court,  to  keep  up  their  military 
studies  and  prepare  for  the  next  war  by  dancing 
attendance  on  women  and  flattering  the  Minister 
and  the  King  at  Versailles.  The  poor  ones  re- 
mained on  duty — with  not  enough  of  it  to  keep 
them  out  of  mischief,  and  with,  for  the  most  part, 
debased  tastes,  because  their  intellectual  limita- 
tions precluded  them  from  higher. 

The  contamination  of  that  useless  existence 
even  a  Vauvenargues  did  not  wholly  escape. 
For  a  brief  while  he  was  as  other  men  are.  But 
the  pleasures  of  a  garrison  town  could  not  long 
hold  such  a  nature  as  his.  Already — he  was 
but  twenty-two — he  had  that  love    of   solitude 

H  2 


which,  says  a  great  German  philosopher,  is  wel- 
comed or  avoided  as  a  man's  personal  value  is 
great  or  small.  Already — at  an  age  when  other 
men  scarcely  realise  they  have  a  soul — this  man 
was  dominated  by  the  idea  of  its  value  and 
dignity ;  and  deep  within  him  was  the  passion  and 
resolution  to  exercise  to  the  full  its  powers  and 

With  his  companions  he  was  wholly  simple, 
natural,  and  friendly — without  the  faintest  taint 
of  that  conscious  superiority  which  makes  many 
good  people  at  once  useless  as  a  moral  influence 
and  objectionable  as  companions.  'Father,'  his 
brother  officers  used  to  call  him.  Marmontel  said 
'he  held  all  our  souls  in  his  hands.'  He  soon 
resumed,  by  correspondence,  his  friendship  with 
Victor  Mirabeau ;  and  in  their  discussions  on  love 
— the  view  he  takes  of  this  passion  is  always  a 
sure  test  of  a  man's  character — each  letter- writer 
showed  the  yawning  gulf  that  divided  him  from 
the  other. 

If  Vauvenargues  ever  met  the  woman  worthy 
to  hold  his  heart,  to  be,  in  the  finest  and  highest 
understanding  of  those  words,  his  companion  and 
completion,  is  not  known.  He  writes  of  love  as  if 
he  had  felt  it.  But  to  some  pure  souls — as  to  a 
Milton  and  a  St.  John  the  Divine — are  revealed  in 
visions  the  Eden  and  the  New  Jerusalem  wherein 


they  never  walked.  Yauvenargues'  letters  to 
Mirabeau  treat  of  the  subject  with  such  an  ex- 
quisite dignity  and  refinement — with  such  noble 
silences — that  there  is  at  least  no  doubt  that  if  he 
never  found  the  woman  who  would  have  realised 
his  ideals,  he  was  spared  the  bitterness  of  loving 
one  who  broke  them. 

Cousin  Victor  easily  perceived  that  this  thought- 
ful young  soldier  was  fitted  for  something  widely 
different  from  the  life  of  a  garrison  town.  Come 
up  to  Paris,  then  !  Take  up  letters  as  a  career ! 
Win  the  smiles  of  the  Court,  and  a  pension  from 
the  Privy  Purse !  But  Yauvenargues  not  only 
preferred  literature  to  the  sham  called  literary 
fame,  but  he  loved  his  own  profession. 

Thinker  as  nature  had  made  him,  thinker, 
moralist,  aphorist  as  he  has  come  down  the  ages, 
he  was  first  of  all  a  man  of  action,  and  so  sound 
in  thought  because  he  was  so  strong  in  deeds. 
All  his  maxims  were  '  hewn  from  life.'  When  the 
death  of  the  Emperor  Charles  YI.  in  1740  shook 
the  kingdoms  of  Europe  as  a  child  shakes  its 
marbles  in  a  bag,  Luc  de  Yauvenargues  shouldered 
his  knapsack  and  went  out  to  Bohemia  under  the 
command  of  Belle-Isle.  Eeady  to  dare  and  to  do, 
brave,  young,  high-spirited,  knowing  no  career 
more  glorious  than  arms,  he  looked  round  him  and 
drew  from  keen  experience  his  views  of  the  world. 


The  philosopher  in  a  study,  weighing  the  pros 
and  cons  of  motives  he  knows  by  hearsay,  of  deeds 
of  which  he  has  read,  of  passions  he  has  never 
felt,  may  be  a  very  fine  thinker,  but  will  hardly  be 
chosen  as  a  sound  guide  to  practice. 

The  explorer  who  has  faced  the  torrent  and 
the  mountain,  the  burning  sun  of  the  desert, 
hunger  and  cold  and  thirst,  who  has  himself 
fought  with  beasts  at  Ephesus,  will  have  a  know- 
ledge of  the  country  he  has  discovered,  which 
no  books  and  lectures,  no  geographical  or  topo- 
graphical knowledge  can  ever  give  to  the  cleverest 
student  at  home.  The  worth  and  the  use  of 
Vauvenargues'  axioms  on  life  lie  largely  in  the 
fact  that  he  had  been  there  himself. 

The  very  brief  triumph  of  the  capture  of 
Prague  in  1742  was  succeeded  by  the  horrors  of 
the  great  mid- winter  march  from  Prague  to  Egra. 
The  King's  Own  sufiered  terribly.  Death,  defeat, 
famine,  Vauvenargues  knew  not  as  names  but  as 
realities.  In  the  spring  of  1742  he  had  lost  a 
young  comrade,  de  Seytres,  and  wrote  an  iloge  of 
him.  Its  immature  and  stilted  style  gives  little 
idea  of  the  warm  feeling  it  clothed.  Morley  speaks 
of  Vauvenargues'  'patient  sweetness  and  equa- 
nimity '  as  a  friend ;  and  records  how  hardship 
made  him  '  not  sour,'  but  wise  and  tender.  All 
through  that  fearful  march,  in  this  strange  soldier's 


knapsack  were  the  manuscripts  of  '  Discourses 
on  Fame  and  Pleasure,'  'Counsels  to  a  Young 
Man,'  and  a  '  Meditation  on  Faith.'  Of  many  of 
his  maxims  on  patience  and  the  brave  endurance 
of  suffering,  he  must  have  found  at  this  time  cruel 
personal  need. 

The  handsome  young  officer  who  had  left 
France  in  the  prime  of  his  hopes  and  his  manhood, 
returned  to  it  with  his  health  utterly  ruined, 
both  his  legs  frost-bitten,  and  his  lungs  seriously 

Still,  he  gathered  together  the  strength  he  had 
left  him  and  the  pluck  that  never  failed  him,  re- 
joined his  regiment  in  Germany  in  1743,  fought 
nobly  for  his  fallen  cause  at  Dettingen,  and  re- 
turned to  the  garrison  of  Arras  at  the  end  of  the 
year,  an  invalid  for  life. 

Tt  was  now  obvious  he  could  no  longer  pursue 
his  calling.  Though  he  wrote  with  a  keen  and 
bitter  truth  that  courage  had  come  to  be  re- 
garded as  a  popular  delusion,  patriotism  as  a 
prejudice,  and  that  'one  sees  in  the  army  only 
disgust,  ennui,  neglect,  murmuring ;  luxury  and 
effeminacy  have  produced  the  same  effrontery 
as  peace;  and  those  who  should,  from  their 
position,  arrest  the  progress  of  the  evil,  en- 
courage it  by  their  example,'  yet  still  he  would, 
if  he   could,  have  been  soldier  to  the  end.     For 


a  time  he  thought  of  diplomacy.  '  Great  posi- 
tions soon  teach  great  minds,'  was  one  of  his 
axioms.  He  would  have  been  well  fitted.  But 
merit  was  not  of  the  slightest  help  to  advance- 
ment. To  fawn  on  the  King  and  the  Mistress,  to 
prostitute  one's  life  and  one's  talents  to  a  Court — 
here  was  the  way  to  promotion.  Vauvenargues 
wrote  to  the  King  and  corresponded  with  Amelot 
the  Minister,  who  answered  most  amiably  and 
affably — and  did  nothing  at  all.  '  Permit  me,  sir,' 
wrote  Vauvenargues  to  him  at  last,  with  the 
directness  taught  in  camps,  '  to  assure  you  that 
it  is  a  moral  impossibility  for  a  gentleman,  with 
nothing  but  zeal  to  commend  him,  ever  to  reach 
the  King.'  Amelot,  stung  a  little,  promised  the 
next  vacant  post,  and  this  time  promised  sincerely. 

Vauvenargues  retired  to  Provence  and  to  quiet, 
to  learn  his  new  business.  There  he  was  attacked 
by  confluent  small-pox,  which  left  him  nearly 
blind  and  wholly  disfigured :  a  misfortune  he  felt 
painfully  as  '  one  of  those  accidents  which  prevent 
the  soul  from  showing  itself.'  But  worse  than 
any  disfigurement,  the  partial  blindness  made,  of 
course,  a  diplomatic  career  an  impossibility  for 

Before  the  campaign  of  1743,  Vauvenargues 
had  introduced  himself  to  Arouet  de  Voltaire,  by 
a  letter  in  which  the  obscure  soldier-critic  com- 


pared  Corneille  disadvantageously  with  Eacine. 
Nothing  is  so  delightful  in  Voltaire's  own  genius 
as  his  generous  recognition  of  other  men's. 
Nothing  is  more  to  his  honour  than  his  high  ad- 
miration for  the  moral  gifts  of  a  Vauvenargues 
who  was  young  enough  to  be  his  son,  who  was 
poor,  forlorn,  a  nobody,  and  whose  fine  qualities 
of  lofty  highmindedness,  delicacy,  patience  and 
serenity  found,  alas !  no  counterpart  in  Voltaire's 
own  nature.  It  is  so  much  the  more  to  his  credit 
that  he  could  admire  what  he  could  never  imitate, 
and  appreciate  what  was  wholly  foreign  to  his 
temperament.  He  rejoiced  in  the  thoughtful 
ability  of  that  letter.  '  It  is  the  part  of  such  a 
man  as  you,'  he  replied,  '  to  have  preferences  but 
no  exclusions.' 

The  campaign  of  1743  had  interrupted  their 
relationship.  But  they  resumed  it  now,  and, 
behold  !  it  had  turned  into  friendship. 

Voltaire  was  at  this  time  fifty  years  old,  famous 
as  the  author  of  the  '  English  Letters,'  the  '  Hen- 
riade,'  a  few  brilliant  plays,  and  also  as  Court 
wit  and  versifier.  But  he  was  already  in  mental 
attitude  what  he  had  not  yet  become  in  mental 
output  and  in  active  deed.  He  could  recognise 
in  this  Vauvenargues  not  only  a  friend  and  a 
literary  critic,  but  a  thinker  and  a  philosopher. 
Vauvenargues  sent  him  by  degrees   most  of  his 


writings,  and  Voltaire's  criticisms  thereon,  as  sincere 
as  they  were  enthusiastic,  were  in  themselves  a 
powerful  persuasion  to  the  man  of  deeds  to  become 
man  of  words ;  while  the  Master's  whole-hearted 
devotion  to  his  own  profession — the  best  and  the 
noblest  of  all,  though  it  bring  no  bread  but  the 
bread  of  affliction  and  of  tears — was  a  further 
strong  inducement  to  Vauvenargues  to  join  the 
great  brotherhood  too.  This  soldier-thinker  can 
tell  men  what  to  do  when  we  have  made  them  free 
to  do  what  they  will !  He  is,  he  has  confessed  it,  as 
'follement  amoureux  de  la  liberte'  as  I  myself! 
To  the  individual  soul  he  can  give  the  help  and 
the  courage  I  have  tried  to  give  to  the  race,  and 
to  the  riddle  of  the  painful  earth  he  can  bring  a 
wiser,  tenderer,  and  braver  solution  than  mine ! 

Vauvenargues  was  not,  in  fact,  an  intellect  a 
Voltaire  would  lose.  The  young  soldier  decided 
to  adopt  literature  as  a  profession,  and  began  the 
world  afresh. 

Everything,  save  only  Voltaire's  encourage- 
ment, was  against  such  a  decision.  The  old 
Marquis  de  Vauvenargues — from  a  very  natural 
but  very  mistaken  and  unrobust  tenderness — 
would  have  kept  his  son  at  home  to  lead  a  safe, 
idle,  invalid  life  in  Provence,  with  a  stroll  on  the 
terrace  of  the  Vauvenargues'  country-house  for 
exercise,  a  thick-headed  provincial  neighbour  for 


mental  recreation,  and  his  own  aches  and  pains 
for  an  interest.  His  other  relations  (on  the 
principle  of  Myrtle  in  'The  Conscious  Lovers' 
— '  We  never  had  one  of  our  Family  before  that 
descended  from  Persons  that  Did  anything') 
objected  to  letters  for  one  of  Us  as  a  low  walk, 
leading  directly  to  the  Bastille.  It  was  true  that 
the  moment  was  an  inglorious  one  for  literature. 
The  Encyclopaedia  was  unconceived.  Voltaire 
himself  was  not  yet  the  mighty  influence  he 
was  to  become.  Writing  did  pay  badly,  and  the 
young  Marquis  was  deadly  poor.  Greatest  objec- 
tion of  all  was  his  own  strong  leaning  to  a  life 
of  action,  and  he  himself  first  wrote  of  literature 
as  being  as  '  repugnant '  to  him  as  to  his  family. 
'  But  necessity  knows  no  law.' 

That  momentary  bitterness  passed.  'Despair 
is  the  worst  of  faults,'  said  he.  It  was  his  part — 
allotted  to  him  by  misfortune,  by  fate,  by  God — 
no  longer  to  act  himself,  but  to  teach  other 
men  how  to  act.  He  thrust  aside  the  objections 
of  his  relatives.  '  It  is  better  to  derogate  from 
one's  caste  than  from  one's  genius.'  He  silenced 
his  own  disappointment.  'A  great  soul  loves 
to  fight  against  ill  fortune  .  .  .  and  the  battle 
pleases  him,  independently  of  the  victory.' 

In  May,  1745,  he  came  up  to  Paris,  and  in  a 
very  humble  lodging,  where  the  Eue  Larrey  and 


the  Scliool  of  Medicine  are  now  situated,  began 
the  world  afresh. 

Anyone  who  supposes  his  discontent  to  come 
from  his  circumstances  and  not  from  himself, 
should  consider  the  life  of  Vauvenargues,  and 
the  one  book  with  which  he  has  enriched 

Disappointed,  disfigured,  a  failure ;  useless 
for  the  career  he  had  loved,  incapable  of  the 
career  he  had  tried  ;  cast  off  by  his  own  people  ; 
solitary  in  a  great  city;  often  in  pain  of  body, 
and  because  the  work  he  had  chosen  was  not  the 
work  Nature  had  originally  chosen  for  him,  often 
in  pain  of  mind  too — if  ever  man  had  an  excuse 
for  cursing  God  and  fate,  it  was  surely  Luc  de 

La  Eochefoucauld,  rich  and  prosperous,  with 
friends,  position,  and  honour,  had  denied  human 
virtue,  and  assailed  it  with  cold  malignities  which 
still  strike  despair  into  the  soul;  and  Voltaire 
himself,  the  most  successful  man  of  letters  in 
history,  turned  upon  life  with  gibes,  and  sneered 
at  faith  and  happiness  as  alike  chimaeras. 

But  Vauvenargues  looked  out  on  the  world 
which  had  given  him  nothing,  with  serene  and 
patient  eyes,  and  in  a  single  book,  as  direct,  strong, 
and  simple  as  his  own  nature,  evolved  one  of  the 
most  wise  and  comforting,  one  of  the  most  sane. 


serene,  and  practical  schemes  of  life,  given  to  our 

The  great  questions.  Why  am  I  ?  Whither  go 
I  ?  Whence  came  I  ?  he  asked  himself  as  a 
thoughtful  man  must,  but  being  a  doer  long  before 
he  was  a  thinker,  he  wasted  little  time  in  vainly- 
seeking  to  answer  them.  Among  his  papers  are  a 
Prayer  as  well  as  the '  Meditation.'  For  simple  faith 
he  had  ever  reverence  and  envy — for  all  solemn 
questions  a  deep  respect ;  and  though  he  had  no 
formulated  religion,  was  yet  deeply  religious.  But 
with  him  to  be  religious  meant  to  Do  Well.  Live 
this  life  aright,  and  the  next  will  take  care  of  itself. 
'  The  thought  of  death  deceives  us,  it  makes  us 
forget  to  live  :  one  must  live  as  if  one  would  never 
die.'  To  waste  time  and  energy  in  idle  discussion 
and  speculation  on  another  world  when  there  is 
so  much  to  do  to  set  this  one  straight,  found  no 
countenance  from  this  man  of  Deeds.  Do,  not 
dream,  was  his  motto  for  ever. 

There  is  not  a  page  in  his  book — there  is 
scarcely  a  line — which  does  not  bear  witness  to 
his  strong  faith  in  men's  honour  and  goodness,  to 
his  passionate  conviction  that  out  of  worst  evil 
one  can  get  good,  that  the  cruellest  misfortunes 
ennoble  and  purify  if  one  will  let  them,  and  our 
griefs  may  be  for  ever  our  gains.  The  hand  that 
wrote   was  fevered  with  disease.     No  rich  man, 


this,  announcing  glibly  how  comfortable  it  is  to  be 
poor.  In  the  most  vicious  of  all  ages — and  in  not 
the  least  vicious  of  that  age's  environments — 
Vauvenargues  had  preserved  his  high  ideals  and 
his  lofty  character,  and  in  sickness,  sorrow,  and 
disappointment  he  practised  daily  the  courage  he 

Instead  of  mockery — the  besetting  sin  of  his 
generation — this  man,  and  this  man  alone,  had  for 
men's  follies  and  absurdities  only  infinite  compas- 
sion. Of  him  has  been  aptly  quoted  Bacon's 
beautiful  phrase,  '  he  had  an  aspect  as  though  he 
pitied  men.'  His  philosophy  remains  for  ever  to 
the  unquiet  heart  at  once  balm  and  tonic — the 
cool  hand  of  compassion  on  the  burning  fore- 
head— the  touch  of  a  friend,  who  knows — the 
strong  grasp  of  help  to  raise  the  feeble  from  his 
weakness  and  despair,  and  to  make  him  do  what 
he  can. 

Some  of  the  axioms  have  become  part  of  men's 
speech,  if  not  part  of  their  soul. 

'  Great  thoughts  come  from  the  heart.' 

'  We  should  comfort  ourselves  for  not  having 
fine  talents,  as  we  comfort  ourselves  for  not  having 
fine  positions;  we  can  be  above  both  by  the  heart.' 

'Great  men  undertake  great  things  because 
they  are  great,  and  fools  because  they  think  them 


'Would  you  say  great  things?  Then  first 
accustom  yourself  never  to  say  false  ones.' 

'  Who  can  bear  all,  can  dare  all.' 

'  Envy  is  confessed  inferiority.' 

'  Few  sorrows  are  without  remedy  :  despair  is 
more  deceptive  than  hope.' 

'  Who  gives  his  word  lightly,  breaks  it.' 

'  He  who  has  great  feeling,  knows  much.' 

'  To  the  passions  one  owes  the  best  things  of 
the  mind.' 

Into  that  mad  devotion  to  wit  which  was  the 
snare  of  all  his  compeers,  Vauvenargues  never  fell. 
He  worshipped  at  the  shrine  of  a  diviner  goddess 
called  Truth.  There  is  not  a  single  example — 
even  in  his  maxims,  when  the  temptation  would 
naturally  be  strongest — of  his  sacrificing  fidelity 
to  smartness. 

In  February  1746,  after  he  had  been  less  than 
a  year  in  Paris,  he  published  anonymously  that 
book  by  which  he  has  gone  down  the  ages  and 
up  to  the  gods,  and  which  contains  only  the 
'Introduction  to  the  Knowledge  of  the  Human 
Mind,'  some '  Eeflections,'  the '  Counsels  to  a  Young 
Man,'  a  few  critical  articles,  the  'Meditation  on 
Faith,'  and  the  '  Maxims.' 

Clear,  clean,  and  vigorous  in  style,  as  sharp 
and  brief  as  a  military  order — it  was  well  said  by 
a  friend  that  its  author  '  wanted  first  of  all  to  get 


along  quickly  and  drag  little  baggage  after  him  ; ' 
and  better  said  by  himself  that,  *  when  an  idea  will 
not  bear  a  simple  form  of  expression,  it  is  the  sign 
for  rejecting  it.' 

It  was  not  the  sort  of  work  likely  to  bring  him 
present  fame,  or  money.  He  did  not  expect  them. 
As  he  worked  in  his  miserable  lodgings,  ill  lit  and 
ill  warmed,  already  a  prey  to  consumption,  and 
suffering  often  acutely  from  the  old  frost-bites — no 
such  hopes  had  buoyed  him.  But  he  did  what  he 
had  told  other  men  to  do — worked  for  the  work's 
sake — and  he  found  what  he  had  told  them  they 
would  find,  joy  in  the  working  and  satisfaction  in 
a  noble  aim,  be  it  unrewarded  for  ever. 

The  book  dropped  from  the  press  perfectly 
stillborn.  Eeflections  and  moralities  in  the  Paris 
of  1746  !  No,  thank  you.  No  one  even  troubled 
to  abuse  it.  No  one,  except  Marmontel,  who  was 
Yauvenargues'  personal  friend,  reviewed  it.  But 
Voltaire  loudly  pronounced  it  one  of  the  best  books 
in  the  language  :  '  The  age  ...  is  not  worthy  of 
you,  but  it  has  you,  and  I  bless  Nature.  A  year  ago 
I  said  you  were  a  great  man,  and  you  have  be- 
trayed my  secret.'  After  Yauvenargues'  death  he 
wrote  of  him,  '  How  did  you  soar  so  high  in  this 
age  of  littleness  ? '  and  spoke  of  the  '  Maxims  '  as 
characteristic  of  a  profoundly  sincere  and  thought- 
ful mind,  wholly  above  all  jealousies  and  party 


spirit.  For  sixty  years  the  book  lay  germinating 
in  a  hard  and  barren  soil,  unworthy  of  it;  and 
then  rose  fresh  and  strong  from  oblivion  to  the 
just  and  growing  fame  it  enjoys  to-day.  It  has 
been  well  said  '  to  give  the  soul  of  man  an  impetus 
towards  truth.' 

Though  his  tastes,  his  poverty,  and  his  health 
alike  precluded  Yauvenargues  from  joining  in  the 
socialities  of  the  cafes  and  the  salons  during  his 
brief  life  in  Paris,  he  saw  sometimes  Marmontel  and 
d'Argental,  and  often  Voltaire.  Marmontel  was 
still  only  a  boy  who  had  just  started  literary  life 
on  a  capital  of  six  louis  and  the  patronage  of  Vol- 
taire ;  and  d'Argental,  Voltaire's  dear  '  guardian 
angel,'  was  the  nephew  of  Madame  de  Tencin,  and, 
perhaps,  the  author  of  her  novels.  Marmontel  was 
on  a  very  different  plane  of  intellect  and  character 
from  Vauvenargues — while  the  one  was  a  lusty 
boy  beginning  the  world,  the  other  was  a  patient 
thinker  who  was  leaving  it.  But  in  those  bare 
and  dreary  surroundings,  in  the  disfigured  invalid 
of  whom  men  had  never  heard,  even  the  common- 
place cleverness  of  a  Marmontel  worshipped  a  hero. 
Long  years  after,  he  speaks  of  Vauvenargues'  '  un- 
alterable serenity ' — of  his  brave  and  tender  heart. 
'  With  him  one  learnt  to  live  and  learnt  to  die.' 

As  for  Voltaire,  one  can  picture  him  just 
elected  to  the  French  Academy,  the  proteg^  of 


Madame  de  Pompadour,  the  dearest  friend  of 
young  Frederick  the  Great,  and  fast  becoming  the 
most  astonishing  man  in  Europe,  entering  into  the 
dull  room,  full  of  liveliness  and  animation,  ay,  and 
full  too  of  real  kindness  and  sympathy,  while  the 
invalid  sat  by  the  fireside  listening  silently  awhile, 
and  then  striking  across  the  Master's  brilliant 
volubility  with  some  quiet  truth  which  he  had 
long  proved  and  pondered.  That  he  found  Vol- 
taire's conversation  a  powerful  stimulus  to  his 
own  mind,  and  a  very  real  delight,  is  not  doubt- 
ful. There  are  few  Yoltaires  in  the  world,  and  it 
was  one  of  Vauvenargues'  misfortunes  that,  save 
Victor  Mirabeau,  he  had  known  scarcely  anyone 
who  was  his  intellectual  equal. 

But  if  Voltaire  roused  the  mind,  Vauvenargues 
strengthened  the  soul.  After  his  death,  Voltaire 
wrote  of  him  that  he  had  always  seen  him  '  the 
most  unfortunate  and  the  most  tranquil  of  men.' 
It  was  this  lucky  genius  of  an  Arouet  who  brought 
his  fumings  and  his  impatience,  his  irritableness 
over  this,  his  chagrins  about  that,  for  the  consola- 
tion of  the  man  to  whose  sufferings  his  own  had 
been  as  a  drop  in  the  ocean.  Vauvenargues  always 
seems  the  elder  of  the  two,  as  it  were.  He  was  as 
certainly  the  wiser,  as  he  was  certainly  the  far 
inferior  genius. 

What  were  his  thoughts  when  those  few  friends 


had  left  him?  It  is  on  their  testimony  that  he 
never  uttered  a  complaining  or  a  bitter  word. 
His  writings  contain  not  an  angry  line — not  one 
rebellion  against  God  and  Fate.  It  was  the  happy 
people  who  grumbled — perhaps  it  always  is.  Once, 
only  once,  there  is  a  striving  against  destiny.  In 
a  moment  of  relaxation  from  bodily  pain  he  wrote 
to  an  intimate  friend,  'I  have  need  of  all  your 
affection,  my  dear  Saint-Vincens :  all  Provence  is 
in  arms,  and  I  am  here  at  my  fireside.'  He  went 
on  to  offer  his  feeble  help  to  the  service  he  had 
loved,  and  to  beg  for  the  smallest  post  in  his  old 
active  career. 

But  in  a  second  came  realisation.  He  was  too 
ill  to  be  of  any  use.  Only  thirty-two,  he  saw  life 
slipping  from  him,  and  leaving  him  at  that  fireside 
a  wreck,  only  fit  for  the  hulks.  But  he  bore  '  his 
dark  hour  unseen,'  and  troubled  no  man  with  his 

His  disease  gained  on  him  daily  now.  For  the 
last  year  he  was  too  ill  to  write.  How  far  harder 
to  die  bravely  by  inches,  unable  even  to  do  one's 
work,  than  to  rush  a  smihng  hero  upon  the  swords 
in  a  glorious  moment  of  exaltation,  unweakened 
by  disease,  and  uplifted  by  the  applause  of  just 
men  and  of  one's  own  heart ! 

Vauvenargues  saw  death  coming  slowly  while 
it  was  yet  a  great  way  off,  and  was  not  afraid. 


No  saint  this,  beholding  in  fervid  ecstasy  the  vision 
of  a  world  to  come ;  but  a  strong  man  who  had 
done  his  best  with  the  world  he  had,  and  had 
written  of  that  unknown  future  only  in  patient 
hope.  '  My  passions  and  thoughts  die  but  to  be 
born  again :  every  night  I  die  on  my  bed  but  to 
take  again  new  strength  and  freshness:  this  ex- 
perience of  death  reassures  me  against  the  decay 
and  the  dissolution  of  my  body/ 

He  had  lived  to  do  his  duty  and  to  think  of 
others,  and  thus  he  died. 

The  date  was  May  28,  1747,  and  the  period 
one  of  the  least  honourable  in  the  life  of  his  friend 
Voltaire.  But  from  his  sycophancy  of  Pope 
and  King,  from  a  foul  and  noisy  Court,  from 
feverish  bickerings  with  his  Madame  du  Ch^telet, 
and  the  coarse  worldliness  of  his  old  Duchesse  du 
Maine,  Yauvenargues'  death  recalled  him  to  his 
truer  self,  and  roused  him  to  the  real  work  of 
his  life.  No  other  loss  he  ever  suffered,  it  is 
said,  affected  him  more  profoundly. 

If  the  fact  that  Yauvenargues  loved  him  bears 
high  testimony  to  the  character  of  Yoltaire,  the 
virtue  of  Yauvenargues,  like  the  virtue  of  Addison, 
may  well  give  '  reputation  to  an  age.' 

Flippant  and  false,  at  once  supremely  clever 
and  supremely  silly,  the  eighteenth  century,  to 
whom  Duty  was  a  mockery  and  Wit  was  a  god, 


is  in  some  sort  redeemed  by  the  brave,  silent  life, 
and  the  high  ideals  he  proved  practical  and  not 
visionary  by  fulfilling  himself,  of  this  soldier 

While  of  all  the  Brothers  of  Progress,  Yau- 
venargues  alone  approached  Truth  as  a  suppliant, 
and  thus  gained,  surely,  the  nearest  vision  of  her 



In  the  most  sociable  city,  in  the  most  sociable 
age  in  the  history  of  the  world,  there  is  one  man 
who  stands  out  as  the  host  par  excellence.  In  the 
Kue  Eoyale  at  Paris  and  in  his  country  house  at 
Grandval,  near  Charenton,  Baron  d'Holbach  enter- 
tained for  more  than  thirty  years  the  wit  and  the 
celebrity  of  all  nations.  His  name  runs  like  a 
thread  through  the  English  memoirs  and  letters 
of  the  mid-eighteenth  century.  There  was  not  a 
Frenchman  or  a  Frenchwoman  of  fame  and  fashion 
who  had  not  dined  at  the  Eue  Eoyale  on  the 
immortal  Thursdays  and  Sundays,  or  driven  down 
from  Paris  to  Grandval  for  a  few  days  of  a  com- 
pany and  a  conversation  unequalled  and,  perhaps, 

But  it  is  not  only  or  chiefly  as  the  Host  of 
All  the  World  that  d'Holbach  is  remarkable. 
He  was  the  '  maitre  d' hotel  of  philosophy.'  Vol- 
taire,  banned  and  exiled,  could   only  encourage 

From  a  Portrait  in  the  Musee  CoiuU,  Cliantilhj. 


his   children   from   lonely  Cirey   or   far  Geneva. 
D'Holbach  was  here,  in  the  midst  of  them. 

Comfortable,  cultured,  liberal,  the  freest  of 
all  free  thinkers,  and  yet  always  in  the  smiling 
good  favour  of  the  authorities,  not  shy  and  retir- 
ing like  d'Alembert,  not  wild  and  imprudent  like 
Diderot,  without  a  profession  to  distract  him  from 
his  appointed  metier^  with  a  well-stocked  mind, 
an  enormous  income,  a  fine  library,  a  pretty  wife, 
a  first-rate  cook,  and  an  admirable  cellar — why, 
here  was  the  man  intended  by  Fate  to  be  the  link 
to  bind  us  together  and  to  make  for  us  a  meeting- 
place,  a  common  ground,  where,  in  words  to  be 
first  appHed  only  to  the  Head  of  our  Party, 

In  very  wantonness  of  childish  mirth 

We  puffed  Bastilles,  and  thrones,  and  shrines  away, 
Insulted  Heaven,  and  liberated  earth. 

Was  it  for  good  or  evil  ?    Who  shall  say  ? 

Paul-Henri-Thiry  d'Holbach  was  born  in  1723 
at  Heidelsheim,  in  the  Palatinate.  His  father,  said 
Jean  Jacques  Eousseau  when  he  had  quarrelled 
with  the  son,  was  a  parvenu.  Another  of  Paul- 
Henri's  guests  announced  that  his  host  was  called 
Baron  because  he  was  '  of  German  origin,  had  a 
small  estate  in  Westphalia,  and  an  income  of  sixty 
thousand  livres.*  Very  little  is  known  with  cer- 
tainty of  his  family.     He  was  brought  up  in  Paris, 


and  was  from  the  first  French  of  the  French, 
Parisian  of  the  Parisians.  He  seems  to  have  visited 
Germany  as  a  very  young  man,  and  to  have  studied 
natural  science  there.  He  made  his  bow  to  the 
literary  world  by  translating  German  scientific 
works  into  French.  At  his  death  Grimm  wrote 
in  the  '  Literary  Correspondence '  that  the  rapid 
progress  natural  history  and  chemistry  had  made 
for  thirty  years  in  France  was  largely  owing  to 
the  Baron  d'Holbach. 

As  a  young  man  the  Baron  was  what  he 
remained  all  his  life — a  compiler,  an  annotator, 
a  transcriber,  rather  than  the  possessor  of  any 
great  original  talent  of  his  own.  Boy  and  man  he 
had  in  perfection  that  gift  which  surely  makes 
for  human  happiness  more  than  any  other  single 
quality — a  devoted  love  of  learning.  He  was 
always  rich  enough  to  buy  the  books  and  the 
leisure  to  gratify  that  love.  He  lived  in  an  age 
and  in  the  midst  of  brilliantly  accomplished  men 
and  women.  He  should  have  found  life  delightful. 
He  did.  A  serene,  easy,  generous  nature,  troubled 
by  no  agitating  ambitions,  everything  seems  to  have 
fallen  out  from  the  first  according  to  his  modest 
desires.  For  him,  and  for  him  alone  among 
Voltaire's  co-operators,  the  path  to  light  and 
knowledge  flowered  pleasantly  all  the  way.  The 
others   look   out   eagerly   from   their   portraits — 


furrowed  foreheads  and  burning  eyes — or  with 
faces  noble  and  sad,  hke  d'Alembert  or  Condorcet. 
Only  the  good  Baron  is  seated  at  his  ease  in  his 
pleasant,  sumptuous  garden,  surveying  life  calmly 
and  leisurely.     Which  things  are  a  parable. 

In  1752  or  3  753,  when  he  was  about  thirty 
years  old,  he  began  writing  articles  for  that  Ency- 
clopaedia which  set  on  almost  all  its  other  contri- 
butors the  ban  of  Government  ill-favour.  Only 
Paul-Henri — writing  always  judiciously  under  a 
pseudonym — gained  nothing  but  pleasure  and  ap- 
probation from  his  excellent  papers  on  mineralogy 
and  chemistry.  He  formed  the  happiest  life-long 
friendships  with  his  fellow-writers  in  that  im- 
mortal book.  He  married  a  pretty  and  charming 
wife.  Mademoiselle  d'Aine.  She  died,  in  August 
1754,  after  a  very  brief  married  life.  D'Holbach 
travelled  abroad  with  Grimm  for  a  while. 

In  1755,  he  obtained  a  special  dispensation 
from  the  Pope,  and  married  his  deceased  wife's 
sister.  Mademoiselle  Charlotte-Suzanne  d'Aine, 
and  began  to  live  with  her  a  life  which  presented 
the  very  rare  combination  of  perfect  domestic  con- 
tentment and  the  most  brilliant  social  success. 

In  the  very  heart  and  core  of  Paris,  Kue 
Eoyale  hutte  Saint-Eoch,  the  Baron  held  in  his 
town  house  what  Eousseau  calls  the  'club  hol- 
bachique,'   Diderot   '  the   synagogue    of  the  Eue 


Eoyale/  and  Garat '  the  Institute  of  France  before 
there  was  one.'  Here,  at  two  o'clock  every  Sun- 
day and  Thursday,  unless  the  d'Holbachs  were  in 
the  country,  their  friends  were  certain  to  find  a 
free  and  affluent  hospitality,  the  most  intellectual 
society  of  the  capital,  the  most  distinguished 
foreigners  who  visited  it,  a  host  as  liberal  in  idea 
as  in  the  very  good  cheer  to  which  he  made  his 
guests  welcome,  and  the  most  daring  speculative 
conversation  of  the  eighteenth  century. 

But,  after  all,  it  was  not  in  the  Eue  Eoyale 
that  d'Holbach  and  his  friends  found  their  most 
characteristic  setting.  Grandval,  near  Charenton, 
remains  not  only  the  most  influential  salon  of  the 
age,  the  great  headquarters  of  a  great  party  and  the 
arsenal  in  which  were  forged  the  armaments  which 
destroyed  a  king,  a  dynasty,  and  a  state  religion, 
but  also  the  country  house  of  the  period. 

When  Talleyrand,  in  that  much  quoted  phrase, 
declared  that  no  one  knew  how  delightful  a  thing 
life  could  be  unless  he  had  belonged  to  the  upper 
classes  before  the  Eevolution,  he  might  have  been 
thinking  of  the  life  at  Grandval  in  particular. 

There  was  a  fine  and  charming  chdteaii,  and 
the  most  delightful  of  gardens.  Grandval  was  just 
near  enough  to  Paris,  and  just  far  enough  away — 
which  is  to  say,  it  was  absolute  country,  within 
easy  reach  of  town,  in  an  age  when  the  suburb 


was  not,  or,  at  least,  when  the  social  drawbacks 
comprehended  in  the  word  'suburban'  had  no 
existence.  The  estate  actually  belonged  to  Madame 
d'Aine,  d'Holbach's  mother-in-law,  who  was  as 
'  lively  as  any  romp  of  fifteen,'  always  thoroughly 
enjoying  herself,  determined  her  guests  should  do 
the  same,  and  with  the  rare  wisdom  to  leave  them 
to  do  it  in  their  own  way. 

Madame  d'Holbach  was  pretty,  gay,  and  charm- 
ing. She  played  on  the  lute,  adored  her  husband 
and  children,  and  hated  philosophy.  If  her  guests 
like  to  talk  it — and  they  are  always  talking  it — 
well,  by  all  means,  so  they  shall !  Live  and  let 
live,  do  as  you  like  come  what  may — these  would 
have  been  the  Grandval  rules,  if  it  had  ever 
bothered  itself  to  have  anything  so  tiresome  as 

The  d'Holbach  children  were  adorable — or  des- 
patched to  governesses  and  servants  if  they  even 
threatened  to  become  less  than  adorable.  There 
were  two  little  boys  and  a  couple  of  little  girls,  the 
elder  'as  pretty  as  a  cherub,'  said  Diderot,  and 
the  younger  '  a  ball  of  fat,  all  pink  and  white.' 

Then  there  was  an  ami  de  la  maison,  a  house- 
hold fixture,  a  chimney-corner  habitue — a  Scotch- 
man named  Hope,  and  nicknamed  Pere  Hoop — 
a  shrivelled,  withered,  pessimistic  person,  who 
sufiered,  or  said  he  suffered,  from  '  Ufe-weariness  ' 


and  bad  health,  who  was  an  excellent  foil  to  what 
Sterne  called  the  'joyous  sett'  in  which  he  found 
himself,  and  the  perpetual  and  dismally  good- 
natured  butt  of  Madame  d'Aine's  rippling  jokes. 

The  Baron  had  all  the  virtues  of  the  host.  He 
was  not  only  rich  and  generous — with  that  cook 
and  cellar  beyond  reproach.  In  those  days  to 
be  a  perfect  entertainer  something  more  even 
than  this  was  required.  An  agreeable  talker,  and 
a  still  more  agreeable  listener,  really  learned,  but 
with  the  most  pleasing  human  weakness  for  a 
little  scandal,  as  easy-going  as  his  mother-in-law 
and  his  wife,  entirely  simple  in  manner,  with  no 
faintest  touch  of  pretension  or  affectation,  a  hon 
vivant  in  the  pleasantest  and  most  harmless  sense 
of  the  phrase — who  would  not  delight  to  have 
been  among  his  guests  ? 

There  were  generally  three  or  four  of  them 
staying  in  the  house,  and  sometimes  very  many 
more.  Diderot  was  here  often  for  weeks  together, 
and  sometimes  for  months.  He  had  a  special  bed- 
room always  reserved  for  him.  In  d'Holbach's 
most  intimate  confidence,  his  abundance,  fecun- 
dity, and  inspiration  were  in  piquant  contrast  to 
the  Baron's  calm  learning  and  well-regulated  sense. 
Here  too  came,  but  not  very  often,  Diderot's 
partner  in  the  Encyclopaedia,  d'Alembert.  Too 
shy  and  retiring  to  enjoy  Grandval's  freedom  and 

D'HOLBACH  :   THE  HOST  125 

liveliness  as  a  recreation,  d'Alembert's  work  for 
his  party  was  not  to  be  advanced,  as  his  brethren 
certainly  advanced  their  work,  by  speculative  talk 
in  clever  company — but  always  in  solitude,  in 
silence,  and  in  simplicity. 

Turgot,  like  d'Alembert,  was  from  time  to  time 
a  guest,  but  a  rare  one.  Turgot  was  beginning  to 
Do,  what  most  of  his  friends  were  still  discussing 
How  to  do. 

Little  Galiani  skipped  down  very  often  from 
the  Italian  Embassy,  and  the  Paris  he  worshipped, 
to  amuse  the  Baron's  house-party  by  telling  it  those 
stories,  'like  dramas,'  which  no  one  ever  found 
too  long.  '  That  man  is  a  pantomime  from  his 
head  to  his  feet,'  said  admiring  Diderot,  watching 
him.  After  1761,  the  heavy  Abb^  Morellet,  the 
would-be  refuter  of  Galiani's  wit  on  the  Corn 
Laws,  was  constantly  at  the  Baron's  '  developing 
my  theories  on  public  economy '  to  his  own  great 
satisfaction.  His  audience  have  not  left  their 
feelings  on  record. 

Grimm,  Diderot's  dear  Damon,  was  here  very 
often,  with  that  slightly  nauseous  affection  for 
his  Pythias,  which,  said  the  frankly  vain  Denis, 
made  d'Holbach  jealous.  For  jealous,  one  may 
be  allowed  to  read  '  disgusted.' 

Grimm's  chere  amie,  Madame  d'Epinay,  some- 
times   accompanied     him.       Her    sister-in-law. 


Madame  d'Houdetot,  often  drove  down  to  Grand- 
val  with  her  superb  Marquis  de  Saint-Lambert 
in  her  train.  Pitted  deeply  with  the  smallpox, 
with  a  cast  in  her  eye,  and  a  little  given  to  too 
much  wine,  the  secret  of  Madame  d'Houdetot's 
charm  is  hard  to  be  found  by  this  generation. 
But  in  that  one,  it  was  not  only  Eousseau  who 
discovered  it  to  his  cost.  Saint-Lambert's  '  faith 
unfaithful  kept  him  falsely  true '  to  her  for  so 
many  years  that  it  came  to  be  considered  quite 
praiseworthy,  and  he  would  have  been  admitted 
to  Grandval  as  Madame  d'Houdetot's  constant 
lover,  if  his  passion  for  Madame  du  Chatelet 
and  his  poem  on  the  '  Seasons '  had  not  given 
him  the  entree  as  a  literary  character  as  well. 

His  rival,  Jean  Jacques  Eousseau,  was  also  an 
habitue  at  d'Holbach's.  The  peaceful  Baron  could 
agree  even  with  that  fretful  child  of  genius,  until 
one  unlucky  day,  when,  Grandval  having  suffered 
gladly  and  politely  a  cure's  reading  of  his  own 
stupid  tragedy,  Jean  Jacques  bounces  furiously  out 
of  his  armchair,  seizes  the  manuscript  from  its 
author,  and  throws  it  to  the  ground — '  Do  you  not 
see  these  people  are  laughing  at  you  ?  Go  back  to 
your  curacy.*  The  kindhest  and  politest  of  hosts 
tries  to  smooth  the  ruflBed  plumage  of  both  play- 
wright and  Eousseau.  If  the  cure  was  appeased 
is  not  a  matter  of  moment.     Jean  Jacques  burst 


out  of  the  house  in  a  rage,  and  despite  all  the  efforts 
of  Grimm  and  of  Diderot,  as  well  as  of  d'Holbach 
himself,  never  returned  to  it.  'He  imagined  all 
his  misfortunes  our  doing  .  .  .  and  thought  we 
had  incited  ...  all  Europe  against  him,'  says 
Grimm.  He  did  try,  however,  to  make  some 
amends  to  his  good  host  by  portraying  him  in 
the  'New  Eloisa'  in  the  character  of  Wolmar — 
'  benevolent,  active,  patient,  tranquil,  friendly, 
and  trustful.' 

Marmontel  came  here  very  often:  and  that 
dreadful,  garrulous  old  bore,  the  Abbe  Eaynal, 
was  constantly  to  be  found  seeking  ideas  among 
the  Baron's  guests  for  his  'History  of  the  Two 
Indies,'  which  received,  and  did  not  deserve,  the 
advertisement  of  burning. 

The  cautious  Buffon  soon  edged  away  from  this 
salon^  as  he  also  edged  away  from  the  gatherings 
of  Helvetius.  The  monstrous  things  these  people 
talk  about  might  come  to  the  ears  of  the  authorities 
— accompanied  by  the  fact  that  the  politic  author 
of  the  '  Natural  History  '  was  among  the  talkers  ! 
Helvetius  himself  was  often  at  d'Holbach's,  until 
the  storm  of  fury  and  hatred  which  assailed  his 
book  '  On  the  Mind '  banished  him,  astounded  and 
embittered,  to  his  estates  in  Burgundy. 

Madame  Geoffrin,  with  her  prim  httle  cap  tied 
under  her  firm   old  chin,   drove   down  to  play 


picquet  with  the  Baron  and  to  scold  Diderot  for 
neglecting  his  wife. 

It  was  partly  owing  to  the  influence  of 
Diderot — himself  greatly  bitten  by  the  Anglomania 
just  creeping  into  fashion — that  the  Baron  enter- 
tained Englishmen  so  largely  both  in  Paris  and  in 
the  country. 

In  the  years  1762-64-66  Sterne  accepted  the 
hospitality  of  the  host,  whom  he  called  '  the  great 
protector  of  wits  and  the  sqavans  who  are  no  wits,' 
to  so  large  an  extent  that  he  could  say  the  Baron's 
house  was  as  his  own.  To  be  sure,  d'Holbach's 
'joyous  sett'  must  have  admirably  suited  this 
Parson  Yorick,  who  had  'no  religion  but  in 
appearance,'  and  a  domestic  morality  very  little 
better  than  the  worst  of  the  Baron's  French 

The  '  broad,  unmeaning  face '  of  Hume,  the 
historian,  was  sometimes  to  be  seen  at  d'Holbach's 
table,  where  he  found  himself  for  the  first  time 
with  thinkers  not  too  narrow,  but  too  emancipated, 
for  his  liking.  It  was  the  Baron  who,  speaking 
from  experience,  warned  Hume  against  nourish- 
ing in  his  bosom  a  serpent  like  Eousseau,  and 
from  d'Holbach's  house,  says  Hume's  biographer, 
Burton,  that  the  story  of  the  famous  quarrel 
between  Hume  and  Eousseau  spread  all  over 
Prance  '  in  a  moment.* 


David  Garrick  came  to  Grandval,  and  delighted 
an  age  and  a  company  passionately  devoted  to 
histrionic  talent.  A  sprightly  Madame  Eiccoboni 
used  to  write  accounts  of  d'Holbach's  society  to 
the  actor  when  he  had  gone  back  to  England  ;  and 
whenever  she  saw  the  Baron  looked  bored  or 
worried,  made  that  expression  a  text  on  which  to 
moralise  on  the  worthlessness  of  riches. 

The  Baron  did  not  often  appear  anything  but 
placid,  however,  and  there  are  very  few  of  his 
guests  who  even  hint  at  anything  in  himself  or  his 
gatherings  which  was  not  smooth  and  delightful. 

Horace  Walpole,  indeed,  talks  of  'dull  d'Ol- 
bach's.*  But  then  Horace  was  the  intimate  friend  of 
Madame  du  DefFand,  who  loathed '  les  philosophes  ' 
and  all  their  ways  and  works,  and  on  one  occasion 
at  least  was  so  unlucky  as  to  find  himself  at  one 
of  the  Baron's  dinner  parties,  not  only  the  solitary 
Englishman  out  of  a  party  of  twelve,  but  next  to 
that  tedious  Eaynal.  'I  dreaded  opening  my 
mouth  in  French  before  so  many  people  and  so 
many  servants,'  says  Horace ;  and  to  avoid  being 
bored  by  the  '  Two  Indies,'  he  made  signs  to  Eaynal 
that  he  was  deaf.  After  dinner,  Eaynal  discovered 
the  trick,  and  naturally  was  not  pleased. 

John  Wilkes,  with  his  ugly  face,  his  flaming 
past,  and  his  irresistible  charm,  also  sat  at  the 
Baron's   cosmopolitan   board;    as    did  Benjamin 


Franklin,  Lord  Shelburne,  and  Priestley — Non- 
conformist, chemist,  and  one  of  the  founders  ot 
modern  scientific  criticism. 

Some  of  these  people,  of  course,  only  dined, 
or  were  merely  invited  to  spend  a  long  day  in 
the  Grandval  grounds  and  gardens;  but  many 
became  part  of  the  house  party  for  days,  like 
Galiani,  for  weeks,  like  Grimm,  for  months,  like 
Diderot,  or  for  ever,  like  Father  Hoop. 

In  the  forenoon,  the  guests  were  left  entirely 
to  their  own  devices,  and  unless  by  special  arrange- 
ment, never  met  each  other  or  their  host  until 
dinner-time  at  half-past  one  or  two.  Some  of 
them  had  arrived  with  a  chef-d'oeuvre  in  their 
pockets — or,  it  might  be,  up  their  sleeves.  Here, 
in  the  pleasant  solitude  of  these  morning  hours, 
Galiani,  no  doubt,  was  '  settling  the  question  of  the 
Corn  Laws,'  Grimm  engrossed  with  his  '  Literary 
Correspondence,'  and  Hoop  arranging  his  pes- 
simism into  a  regular  system.  (Madame  d'Aine 
had  thoughtfully  provided  Hoop  with  a  bedroom 
overlooking  the  moat,  so  that  he  could  at  any 
moment  put  his  principles  into  practice  and  throw 
himself  into  it.)  Diderot,  beside  his  open  windows 
and  with  the  solace  of  a  cup  of  tea,  wrote  for 
Mademoiselle  Volland  those  descriptions  of  life  at 
Grandval  to  which  all  narrators  of  it  are  indebted. 

As  for  the  Baron — the  Baron  always  seemed 


to  have  plenty  to  do  in  that  magnificent  library, 
where  he  could  invariably  find  chapter  and  verse 
for  the  maddest  of  Diderot's  theories,  but  where 
the  actual  nature  of  his  occupation  was  known 
only  to  Diderot  himself,  to  a  certain  very  useful 
friend  called  Naigeon,  who,  having  been  painter 
and  sculptor,  had  finally  settled  into  a  philoso- 
pher, and  to  La  Grange,  the  d'Holbach  children's 

It  is  charitable  to  suppose  that  the  women 
also  performed  their  duties  in  the  morning, 
since  it  is  certain  they  performed  none  at  any 
other  time  of  day.  But  in  this  age,  if  a  woman 
was  witty  and  charming,  her  metier  was  con- 
sidered to  be  fulfilled,  and  she  not  only  did 
nothing  practical  for  the  good  of  humanity,  but, 
better  still,  never  even  felt  she  ought  to  be  doing 
something.  Madame  d'Holbach  had  her  lute  and 
her  embroidery  frame,  the  kindest  of  clever  hus- 
bands, those  engaging  babies,  and  a  perpetual 
house  party.  What  more  could  be  expected  of 
her  ?  Of  Madame  d'Aine,  it  is  not  recorded 
that  she  had  any  other  role  than  that  of  adding  to 
the  gaiety  of  her  household. 

At  about  half-past  one,  then,  the  work  of  the 
day  was  done,  and  hosts  and  guests  met  in  the 
salon,  and  went  in  to  dinner — the  famous  dinner, 
exquisitely    arranged    and    appointed;     servants 

K  2 


numerous,  noiseless,  and  perfectly  au  fait  in  their 
duties ;  the  most  delicate  wines,  and  the  most 
irreproachable  of  chefs.  A  couple  of  Englishmen, 
perhaps,  and  half  a  dozen  French  men  and  women 
had  driven  down  to  it  from  Paris.  There  were 
generally  from  twelve  to  fifteen  persons  at  table, 
and  sometimes  more.  Good  as  the  fare  was — 
much  too  good  for  the  health  of  some  of  the 
diners — '  the  only  intoxication '  at  this  table  '  was 
of  ideas.' 

The  talk  ranged  from  the  history  and  customs 
of  the  Chinese  to  the  final  annihilation  of  the 
human  race.  Sometimes  it  lit  on  '  Clarissa  Har- 
lowe,'  and  the  company  divided  itself  into  For  and 
Against  Sentiment  as  understood  by  the  bookseller 
Eichardson.  Occasionally  the  meal  was  given  up  to 
buffoonery,  and  Madame  d'Aine  led  the  way  with 
jokes  of  such  a  character  that  if  Morellet  is  con- 
scientious in  declaring  in  his  '  Memoirs '  that  all 
freedoms,  except  freedoms  as  to  speculation,  were 
banished  from  d'Holbach's  gatherings,  he  must 
certainly  have  been  deaf.  One  day,  a  story  going 
the  round  of  the  Paris  cafes,  holds  the  table 
curious  and  laughing.  The  Baron,  says  Grimm, 
was  as  amusingly  credulous  of  gossip  as  he  was 
sceptical  of  everything  else.  Another  day,  it  is  a 
question  of  ton  or  of  mode ;  and  a  third,  of  art  or 
of  literature. 


There  was  scarcely  one  of  d'Holbach's  convives 
— there  was  not  one  of  Voltaire's  co-operators — 
who  did  not  contribute,  at  one  time  or  another, 
a  masterpiece,  or  at  least  a  Book  of  the  Moment, 
for  d'Holbach's  table  to  discuss. 

In  1755,  it  is  the  famous  article  on '  Existence  * 
in  the  Encyclopaedia,  by  young  Turgot,  our  shy, 
rare  guest,  which  brings  the  heads  of  the  older 
Encyclopaedists  together  over  the  walnuts  and  the 
wine,  and  inspires  them  with  prophecies  of  a  great 
future  for  its  quiet  author.  Three  or  four  years 
later,  the  great  suppression  of  that  Encyclopaedia 
itself  inflames  the  passions  of  the  party,  goads 
Diderot  to  fury,  and  d'Alembert  to  despair. 

In  1759,  the  '  Candide '  of  the  Master  sets  the 
table  in  a  roar  of  delight.  '  The  Social  Contract ' 
of  our  impossible,  impassioned  Jean  Jacques 
sounds  for  us,  in  1762,  the  trumpet-note  of  battle 
in  that  sonorous  opening  sentence  :  '  Man  is  born 
free,  and  is  everywhere  in  chains.'  The  next 
year,  the  guests  give  their  ever-generous  admira- 
tion to  a  far  wiser  work — one  of  the  mightiest 
weapons  ever  forged  against  '  the  greatest  of  human 
curses ' — '  The  Treatise  on  Tolerance.'  In  1765, 
d'Alembert  comes  out  of  his  shell  again  with  his 
'  History  of  the  Destruction  of  the  Jesuits  ; '  while 
Diderot  is  for  ever  finger  deep  in  ink — up  to  the 
neck  in  ideas. 


Only,  at  the  head  of  the  table,  d'Holbach,  host 
and  president,  always  applauding,  encouraging, 
(and  sometimes  also  financing)  the  producers, 
himself  produces  nothing.  Yet  it  is  not  because 
he  does  not  go,  as  it  were,  with  his  guests.  He 
goes  far  beyond  them.  Here,  the  women  of  the 
party  left  the  table  after  dinner  as  they  do  in 
England,  to  exchange  what  Diderot  called  their 
'little  confidences.'  Then  the  conversation  took, 
not  the  kind  of  freedoms  which  Morellet  declared 
he  did  not  hear,  but  speculative  liberties  which,  said 
he, '  would  have  brought  down  thunderbolts  on  the 
house  a  hundred  times  if  they  ever  fell  for  that.' 

At  d'Holbach's  table,  with  d'Holbach  pushing, 
urging,  with  a  quiet,  invincible  persistence,  with 
Diderot  waving  the  flag,  leading,  pleading,  in- 
citing, the  'club  holbachique'  dragged  every 
dogma,  every  so-called  fact  of  existence,  every 
creed,  into  court  before  them ;  judged  by  the 
tribunal  of  their  own  reason,  and  cast  away  all 
that  failed  to  satisfy  it,  as  fagots  for  the  burning. 

Grandval  did  not  speculate,  as  did  Voltaire  and 
his  guests  at  Ferney,  on  the  attributes  of  God  and 
the  nature  of  the  Soul.  It  began  where  he  left 
off:  asked  not.  What  is  God  ?  but.  Is  there  a  God  ? 
not,  What  is  the  Soul  ?  but.  Have  we  a  Soul  ?  and 
in  each  case  answered.  No. 

Gagged  for  hundreds  of  years,  Grandval  used 


the  newly  seized  freedom  of  thought  and  speech  as 
a  very  Httle  later  the  mob  used  its  social  and 
political  liberty.  The  bloody  extremes  of  the 
Terror,  and  the  speculative  extremes  of  d'Hol- 
bach's  table,  were  alike  the  result  of  long  slavery 
and  repression. 

That  d'Holbach  at  least  was  strongly  and 
honestly  persuaded  of  the  truth  of  his  own  unbelief, 
and  was  convinced  that  he  did  well  to  destroy  in 
men  those  faiths  which,  looking  back  on  history, 
he  saw  were  responsible  for  the  intolerable  miseries 
of  religious  persecution,  is  not  doubtful.  D'Hol- 
bach was  an  honest  man.  It  is  true,  indeed,  that 
he  was  not  one  of  the  highest  intellectual  capacity. 
His  seems  to  have  been  just  the  kind  of  clever 
mind — much  more  common  among  women  than 
men — which  is  the  dupe  of  its  own  cleverness,  and 
easily  led  by  it  into  absurdities  which  both  wise 
people,  and  very  simple  ones,  detect  and  avoid. 

Set  the  problem  of  deriving  Everything  from 
Nothing,  it  is  not  marvellous  that  the  Grandval 
talkers  descended  sometimes  to  the  wildest  non- 
sense. Horace  Walpole  said  acidly  that  they  soon 
turned  his  head  with '  a  new  system  of  antediluvian 
deluges  which  they  have  invented  to  prove  the 
eternity  of  matter.  .  .  .  Nonsense  for  nonsense, 
I  prefer  the  Jesuits.'  No  wonder  poor  little  GaUani 
(he  was  an  Abbe,  though  he  very  often  forgot  it) 


fled  to  the  more  circumspect  gatherings  of  Madame 
Geoffrin,  that  the  wise  Turgot  also  turned  away 
from  Grandval,  and  d'Alembert  drew  back  from 
an  atheism  so  positive  and  arrogant. 

By  the  time  the  philosophers  joined  the  women 
it  was  four,  five,  or  even  six  o'clock.  It  does  take 
some  hours  to  construct  Man  and  the  Universe 
out  of  Chaos,  with  nothing  but  blind  Force  to 
help  us !  Then  came  for  the  host  himself,  and 
some  few  of  the  other  men  of  the  party,  a  walk 
in  the  beautiful  gardens.  Most  of  the  Baron's 
guests,  however,  sat  indoors  with  the  women, 
Nature  and  exercise  being  both  greatly  out  of 
fashion  in  the  eighteenth  century. 

When  the  walkers  returned  the  evening  was 
drawing  in,  and  there  were  lights  and  cards  on  the 
table.  Some  of  the  guests  rested  on  long  chairs. 
Some  played  picquet,  some  billiards,  some  tric-trac. 
Some  visited  their  host's  picture  gallery  or  his 
famous  cabinet  of  natural  history.  He  was  himself 
always  pleasant,  courteous,  cheerful.  He  loved  to 
rally  gently  '  the  old  mummy,'  as  he  called  Father 
Hoop,  and,  perhaps,  other  Fathers,  certain  Jesuit 
priests,  whom,  in  defiance  of  all  his  own  principles, 
he  generously  made  free  of  his  house. 

Old  Madame  d'Aine  entertained  the  whole 
company  with  her  perfectly  indecorous  and  per- 
fectly   good-natured    wit.      Madame     d'Holbach, 


always  '  douce  et  honnete,'  '  tres  aimable/  and 
exquisitely  dressed  (the  description  is  Madame 
d'Epinay's),  accepted  her  mother's  buffooneries 
with  absolute  complacency. 

Coarse  as  this  society  was  in  its  speech — 
worse  as  it  was  in  its  easy  condonation  of  vice 
than  the  worst  social  sets  of  our  own  day — 
in  one  respect  at  least  it  was  immeasurably 
superior.  Except  for  an  occasional  desultory 
game  proposed  by  their  hosts,  the  guests  at 
Grandval  were  expected  to  bring,  and  did  bring, 
their  own  entertainment  with  them  in  their  own 
heads.  To  be  bored  would  have  been  to  confess 
oneself  stupid.  For  the  costly  freaks  of  amuse- 
ment, the  elaborately  idiotic  devices  of  modern 
times  to  prevent  the  visitor  having  to  fall  back  for 
an  instant  on  his  own  resources  or  inteUigence, 
Grandval  had  no  need.  If  materialism  was  its 
creed,  there  was,  as  has  been  justly  said,  a  great 
deal  of  '  indirect  spiritualism '  in  its  practice.  Its 
lengthy  dinners  were  feasts  of  reason  (in  spite  of 
those  intellectual  extravagances)  as  well  as  of 
costly  meats  and  wines,  and  the  ill- flavoured  jests 
were  only  interludes  in  the  midst  of  brilliant  and 
fruitful  talk  on  literature,  history,  politics,  and 
the  new  world  beginning  for  France. 

Supper  came  about  nine — 'wit,  gaiety,  and 
champagne,'   Diderot    described    it.     Then  more 


conversation,  until  sometimes  the  party  were  still 
ardently  philosophising  with  their  bedroom  candle- 
sticks in  their  hands. 

When  d'Holbach  had  been  entertaining,  ap- 
parently without  a  break,  for  at  least  ten  years,  he 
took  what  seemed  to  his  friends  the  foolhardy,  not 
to  say  desperate,  resolve  of  crossing  the  Channel. 
To  bury  himself  in  what  Diderot  called  '  the  depths 
of  England'  for  two  months  is  a  very  different 
thing,  the  Baron  will  find,  from  entertaining  English- 
men (and  those  quite  the  most  enlightened  of  their 
species)  in  Paris  !  He  did  find  it  so.  If  England 
delighted  Voltaire,  soothed  wounded  Helvetius, 
and  pleased  even  critical  Grimm,  she  thoroughly 
disgusted  d'Holbach.  He  gave  Diderot  his  vivid 
first  impressions  of  her,  and  Diderot  retailed  them, 
red-hot,  for  Sophie  VoUand  and  for  posterity. 

The  Baron  was  hospitably  received  and  enter- 
tained in  this  island  by  a  rich  and  generous  host, 
whose  name  has  not  transpired ;  he  had  the  best  of 
health  during  his  visit,  and  he  paid  that  visit  in 
August,  when  even  the  British  climate  can  be  very 
tolerable;  he  had  the  pleasure  of  calling  on  his 
guest,  Garrick ;  he  went  to  Oxford  and  Cambridge ; 
travelled  in  some  of  the  prettiest  English  counties, 
and  he  was  bored — to  extinction. 

Our  confessedly  bad  manners  he  found  worse 
than  anyone  had    ever    found   them  before,  and 


was  dreadfully  disgusted  with,  people  'on  whose 
faces  one  never  sees  friendliness,  confidence,  or 
gaiety,  but  which  all  wear  the  inscription,  "  What 
is  there  in  common  between  you  and  me  ?  " '  The 
aristocracy  struck  him  as  cold  and  haughty,  the 
common  people  as  rough  and  violent.  As  for  the 
dinner  parties,  '  where  people  sit  according  to  their 
rank,  and  formality  and  ceremony  are  beside  each 
guest,'  after  the  gracious  ease  of  Grandval,  the  Baron 
may  be  forgiven  for  finding  them  intolerable. 

Then  the  public  entertainments :  '  This  people 
is  sad  and  melancholy,  especially  in  places  built 
for  pleasure.  You  can  hear  a  pin  drop.  A  hun- 
dred stiff  and  silent  women  promenade  round 
an  orchestra  discoursing  the  most  delicious 
music,'  and  the  promenade  can  only  be  compared 
to  '  the  processions  of  the  Egyptians  round  the 
mausoleum  of  Osiris.' 

Then  the  gambling:  'Englishmen  lose  in- 
credible sums  in  perfect  silence.  By  thirty  they 
have  exhausted  all  the  pleasures,  even  beneficence. 
Ennui  .  .  .  conducts  them  to  the  Thames,  unless 
they  prefer  a  pistol.' 

At  the  universities,  the  good  Baron  found  many 
'  rich  do-nothings  drinking  and  sleeping  half  the 
day;'  at  Court,  corruption;  among  the  people, 
no  public  education  and  great  inequality  of  riches. 
The  King,  to  be  sure,  was  powerful  chiefly  to  do 


good,  but  still  he  was  much  the  master.  With 
regard  to  religion,  'the  Christian  religion,'  said 
the  Baron,  'is  almost  extinct  in  England/  This 
was  an  advantage  from  his  point  of  view.  But 
then,  though  there  were  innumerable  Deists,  like 
Hume,  there  was  not  an  atheist,  or  not  an  avowed 
one.  The  travelling  facilities  he  praised — there 
were  always  post-horses  in  plenty;  and  at  the 
meals  at  inns,  he  found  himself  '  served  promptly, 
but  with  no  affability.'  It  must  be  owned  that 
now  and  again  the  Baron  has  us  on  the  hip. 

But,  after  all,  there  was  very  great  good 
in  England:  it  made  one  so  delighted  to  get 
back  to  France.  D'Holbach,  who  had  left 
Paris  about  August  1,  1765,  had  returned  there 
by  September  20.  He  dined  that  same  evening 
with  his  dear  Diderot  and  a  whole  colony  of 
English,  '  who  had  left  their  morgue  and  sadness 
on  the  banks  of  the  Thames.' 

Two  years  after  his  return,  there  appeared, 
not  only  to  the  horror  of  Court,  Church,  and 
Government,  but  to  the  horror  of  the  philosophers 
also,  a  book  called  '  Christianity  Unveiled,  or  an 
Examination  of  the  Principles  and  Effects  of 
Eevealed  Eeligion.' 

It  purported  to  be  by  a  person  called  Boulanger. 
It  asserted  Christianity  to  be  unnecessary  for  the 
maintenance  of  law  and  order ;  declared  its  dogmas 


incoherent,  its  morals  fit  only  to  make  enthusiasts 
and  fanatics,  and  its  political  results  infinitely  fatal 
and  disastrous. 

Voltaire  fell  upon  the  thing  tooth  and  nail. 
'  Impiety  Unveiled,'  he  called  it.  It  was  not  Chris- 
tianity, but  the  perversions  of  Christianity,  with 
which  he  quarrelled.  In  the  margin  of  his  own 
copy  of  the  book  he  wrote  criticisms  as  scathing 
as  they  are  brief.  That  it  was  both  discussed  and 
condemned  at  d'Holbach's  table,  is  practically 
certain.  Galiani  at  least  professed  Christianity; 
Turgot  practised  it.  There  are  many  men — there 
were  some  even  round  d'Holbach's  board — who, 
having  themselves  relinquished  a  faith,  are  yet 
greatly  averse  to  hearing  that  faith  blasphemed ; 
and  who  would  fain  leave  for  the  souls  of  others 
the  consolations  their  reason  denies  to  their  own. 
D'Holbach,  to  be  sure,  would  commend  the  thing. 
'  A  proselytising  atheist,'  as  his  friends  had  long 
known  him  to  be — he  must  approve  this  daring 
effort  to  make  men  think  as  he  did. 

Soon  came  talk  of  other  books — from  the  same 
hand  it  might  be — certainly  from  a  hand  as  bold. 
In  1767  appeared  a  pamphlet  called '  The  Mind  of  the 
Clergy ; '  in  1768  '  Priests  Unmasked,'  and  '  Portable 
Theology.'     The  last  was  condemned  to  be  burnt. 

Then  came  whispers  of  yet  another  work  on.  the 
same  lines,  but  on  a  far  larger  scale,  written  with  an 


even  greater  daring,  with  '  the  zeal  of  a  missionary 
for  atheism,'  with  a  passion,  a  fanaticism,  an  enthu- 
siasm, usually  associated  with  the  '  heated  pulpi- 
teer '  of  some  narrow  sect ;  and  yet  having  in  it,  too, 
something  of  the  serenity,  the  calm  and  confident 
faith  of  the  believer  wholly  satisfied  with  his 
belief.  Who  has  written  it?  AM.  Mirabaud, 
Perpetual  Secretary  to  the  French  Academy,  is  to 
be  the  name,  it  is  said,  on  the  title-page.  But  the 
real  author  ?  Diderot,  whose  Encyclopaedic  labours 
bring  him  in  touch  with  all  the  literary  men  in 
Paris,  is  impulsively  positive  that  he  has  not  the 
slightest  idea.  Naigeon — Naigeon,  the  Baron's 
factotum — is  abroad  on  some  business  of  the  Baron's 
and  cannot  be  appealed  to.  Most  of  the  company 
condemn  the  book  unseen.  The  extremists  of  the 
party  are  always  the  worst  enemies  the  party  has 
to  dread.  At  the  head  of  his  table,  fingering  his 
glass  thoughtfully,  the  Baron,  with  his  bene- 
volent, leisurely  air,  is  only  following  his  usual 
custom  in  saying  little  and  listening  much. 

In  August  1770,  there  was  published  in  London 
and  Amsterdam  '  The  System  of  Nature,  or  The 
Laws  of  the  Physical  and  Moral  World,'  by  Mira- 
baud, Perpetual  Secretary  to  the  French  Academy. 

The  best  kept  literary  secret  in  history  is  the 
authorship  of  the  '  Letters  of  Junius,'  for  that 
remains  a  secret  still.     But  the  Baron  d'Holbach's 


authorship  of  '  The  System  of  Nature '  is  certainly 
among  the  most  piquant  concealments  in  literature. 

He  had  begun  by  sitting  and  listening  to 
criticisms,  mostly  adverse,  on  his  '  Christianity 
Unveiled'  and  the  pamphlets  which  followed  it, 
which  were  all  from  his  pen.  Many  people  start 
a  literary  career  under  as  thick  a  veil  of  anonymity. 
A  few  have  died  still  under  the  disguise.  But  no 
book  has  ever  attracted  such  howls  of  rage  and 
imprecation,  such  a  storm  of  universal  loathing 
and  opprobrium  as  did  'The  System  of  Nature,' 
while  its  author  sat  in  perfect  peace  and  comfort, 
beloved  by  all  his  fellows,  safe,  unsuspected,  and 
serene.  D'Holbach,  said  Grimm  long  after,  when 
d'Holbach  was  dead  and  the  secret  out,  never  ran 
any  danger  from  his  books,  save  the  danger  of 
being  bored  by  them. 

Naigeon,  La  Grange,  and  Diderot  were  in  his 
confidence.  Diderot  was  more  than  in  it.  To 
most  of  the  Baron's  works — certainly  to  '  The 
System  of  Nature' — he  lent  some  of  the  colour 
and  fire  of  his  genius.  Poor  Diderot  was  always 
suspect  of  anything  rash  and  extreme.  'The 
System  of  Nature'  was  published  quite  early 
in  August.  On  the  10th  of  that  month,  Denis 
slipped  off  to  Langres  and  the  baths  of  Bour- 
bonne.  The  Baron  went  on  having  dinner  parties. 
On  the  18th,  the  book  was  condemned  to  be  burnt. 


The  Baron  continued  to  dine  in  peace.  Then,  as 
men  read  it,  and  passed  it  secretly  from  one  to  the 
other,  the  murmurs  of  horror  and  hatred  swelled 
to  a  roar — the  roar  of  the  great  multitude,  always 
deafening  and  terrible.  Above  it,  d'Holbach 
heard,  close,  distinct,  and  scathing,  the  bitter 
condemnations  of  his  own  guests  and  friends.  He 
went  on  dining  to  that  accompaniment. 

From  Ferney,  Voltaire  pronounced  the  work 
'  a  philippic  against  God '  and  '  a  sin  against 
nature  ; '  swore  it  had  wrought  irreparable  harm  to 
philosophy ;  passionately  refuted  it  in  his  article 
on  '  God  '  in  the  Philosophical  Dictionary ;  while 
it  wrung  from  him,  in  a  letter  to  the  Due  de 
Eichelieu,  that  famous  confession ;  '  /  think  it  very 
good  to  sustain  the  doctrine  of  the  existence  of  a 
punishing  and  rewarding  God  :  society  has  need 
of  this  opinion.'  Galiani  declared  '  this  Mirabaud  ' 
to  be  '  the  Abbe  Terrai  of  metaphysics  :  he  causes 
the  bankruptcy  of  knowledge,  of  happiness,  and 
of  the  human  mind.'  La  Harpe  called  it  'this 
infamous  book.'  Young  Goethe  said  he  fled 
from  it  as  from  a  spectre.  It  caused  Frederick 
the  Great  to  break  with  the  philosophic  party. 
Grimm,  indeed — but  this  was  after  d'Holbach's 
death,  when  it  was  no  longer  dangerous  to  hold 
such  opinions — praised  the  purity  of  its  author's 
intentions,    and   the   passages   of  'imposing  elo- 


quence '  the  book  contained — though  these,  he 
added,  Grimm-hke,  '  were  by  Diderot.' 

Who  reads  '  The  System  of  Nature  *  now  ?  It 
never  was  in  any  sense  a  great  book.  But  it  cer- 
tainly was  one  of  the  three  or  four  most  famous 
books  of  an  age  richer  in  them  than  any  other  age 
in  history.  It  was,  after  all,  simply  the  logical 
outcome,  the  natural,  though  the  extreme  result 
of  the  rationalistic  criticism  of  the  fifty  or  sixty 
years  which  preceded  it.  The  philosophers  had 
sought  to  define  God.  D'Holbach  said  aloud, 
what  the  fool  of  David's  time  said  in  his  heart, 
'  There  is  no  God.' 

In  Part  I.  he  disposed  of  Kings  as  efiete, 
luxurious,  war-making,  and  tyrannical.  Then  he 
expounded  his  views  on  Happiness.  Men  will 
never  be  happy  till  they  are  enlightened,  and 
never  enlightened  till  they  have  ceased  to  believe 
in  a  God.  Study  Nature,  and  obey  Nature's  laws 
— that  is  the  way  to  felicity,  if  way  there  be. 
Then  he  went  on  to  Mind.  All  Mind  is  Matter. 
Of  Free  Will  he  denied  the  existence,  as  twelve 
years  earlier  his  friend  Helvetius  had  denied  it  in 
his  book  '  On  the  Mind.'  Still,  even  if  one  cannot 
help  one's  wrong-doing,  punishments  there  must 
be,  for  the  good  of  society  ;  only  such  punish- 
ments should  be  reformative  and  never  cruel.  In 
his  protest  against  torture   and   the    brutahsing 



effect  of  public  executions,  one  sees  for  a  moment 
the  man  behind  the  book.  With  regard  to  the 
Immortality  of  the  Soul,  since  there  is  no  such 
thing  as  soul,  it  cannot  be  immortal.  The  false 
doctrine  of  Hell  is  useless  even  as  a  deterrent 
from  sin. 

Part  II.  contains  what  is  certainly  the  most 
burning  and  outspoken  attack  on  the  Existence 
of  God  to  be  found  in  literature.  That  there  is 
a  Force  behind  Matter,  I  admit.  He  who  does 
not  admit  this,  must  be  a  madman.  But  further 
I  will  not  go.  As  for  morality  depending  on  a 
belief  in  a  Deity — not  at  all.  Nature  bids  man  do 
right  as  his  own  best  interest.  Let  each  try  to 
do  his  utmost  for  the  greatest  good  of  the  greatest 
number,  and  there  stands  established  a  high  and 
an  unselfish  ideal. 

Preached,  as  these  doctrines  were,  in  a  style 
not  a  little  vehement  and  abundant,  with  much 
Teutonic  pomposity  and  rhetoric,  it  could  soon 
be  said  of  d'Holbach  that  he  had  '  accommodated 
atheism  to  chambermaids  and  to  hairdressers.' 
More  learned  critics  disliked  his  manner  as  much 
as  his  matter.  'Four  times  too  many  words  in 
the  book,'  says  Voltaire  acidly.  But  the  un- 
educated, or  the  half-educated,  prefer  both  their 
oratory  and  their  literature  rich  and  fruity. 

Simple   and  learned   alike  would,  or  should, 


had  they  known  him,  have  given  the  author  credit 
for  the  certain  fact  that  '  no  sordid  end,  no 
personal  consideration,  attached  him  to  his  dismal 
system.'  If  his  anonymity  shielded  him  from 
danger,  it  kept  from  him  fame  and  celebrity  too, 
and  gave  him  the  wholesome,  but  not  soothing, 
experience  of  hearing  expressed  to  his  face  criti- 
cisms of  the  kind  generally  only  made  behind 
one's  back.  He  did  not  gain  even  the  painful 
glories  of  martyrdom  ;  and  had  money  been  an 
object  to  him,  by  the  publication  of  such  works 
as  his,  he  can  only  have  lost  it. 

Long    before    the    tumult    '  The    System    of 
Nature '  raised  had  passed  away,  the  Baron  was 
busy  supplementing  it.     In  1772  appeared  '  Good 
Sense,  or  Natural  Ideas  opposed  to  Supernatural 
Ideas,'  which  was  a  sort  of  simplification  of  '  The 
System  of  Nature.'     It  was  burnt.     Then  appeared 
'  The  Social  System,'  which  tried  to  establish  a  rule 
of  morality  totally  unfounded  on  religion.     That 
was  burnt  too.     Then  there  was  a  translation  from 
Hobbes.    The  last,  or  one  of  the  last,  of  d'Holbach's 
pubHshed  works  was  entitled  '  Universal  Morality, 
or   the   Duties   of  Man  founded  on  his  Nature.' 
This  appeared  in  1776.     He  had  the  pleasure  of 
watching  all  the  bonfires  from  a  distance  where 
there  was  not  the  least  danger  of  scorching. 

In   1781   one  of  his  daughters  was  married. 

L  2 


Her  father  was  now  fifty-eight  years  old.  Did 
philosophy,  as  Galiani  inquired  (Galiani  had  re- 
turned to  Italy  in  1769),  still  eat  at  his  table 
with  its  old  appetite  ?  Grimm  said — in  Grimm's 
caustic  fashion — that  the  guests  fell  off  somewhat 
when  the  Baron  had  to  retrench  his  expenses  to 
establish  his  children.  Some  of  the  convives 
had  gone  before  that,  to  solve  for  themselves 
those  questions  on  a  future  world,  and  the 
existence  of  the  soul,  which  they  had  discussed 
so  often.  In  1771  died  Helvetius ;  in  1778  Vol- 
taire himself.  In  1783,  d'Alembert,  who  had  in- 
deed long  ceased  to  frequent  the  Baron's  society, 
or  any  society,  laid  down  the  burden  of  his  life. 
In  the  next  year,  Diderot,  the  friend  of  his  heart, 
the  fruitful  inspiration  of  his  work,  was  called 
away  from  d'Holbach's  side  for  ever. 

It  must  have  been  with  this  society,  as  it 
is  with  all  societies  at  last:  the  sight  of  vacant 
chairs  stops  the  mirth,  and  among  the  living  guests 
glide  others,  dear  and  dead.  When  one  has  more 
memories  than  hopes,  the  time  has  come  to  give 
up  such  gatherings.  That  time  came  even  to 
the  Host  of  his  generation.  By  his  own  fireside 
he  had  to  the  end  the  wife  he  loved.  She  long 
survived  him.  He  had,  too,  that  tranquil  and 
even  disposition  which  is  surely  one  of  the  best  of 
assets — a  possession  indeed. 


The  Baron  was  as  prudent  in  the  time  of  his 
death  as  he  had  been  in  the  conduct  of  his  life. 
He  died  on  January  21  of  that  annus  mirahilis, 
1789.  Five  years  more,  and  he  would  have  seen 
his  own  principles  enthroned  with  the  Goddess  of 
Eeason  at  Kotre-Dame,  and  as,  in  part  at  least, 
the  consequence  of  her  reign,  the  streets  of  Paris 
running  with  blood.  Directly  after  his  death,  the 
secret  of  his  authorship  became  public  property. 

It  is  permissible  only  to  think  of  d'Holbach 
now  as  his  guests  and  friends  thought  of  him  in 
life — not  as  the  author  of  '  The  System  of  Nature ' 
at  all,  but  as  the  liberal  patron  of  letters,  the  best 
and  kindliest  of  good,  easy  men.  One  may  be 
permitted  to  hate  as  bitterly  as  Voltaire  did  the 
unreasonableness  of  his  philosophy  of  pure  reason ; 
and  yet  to  regard  the  philosopher  with  gratitude 
and  appreciation,  as  the  man  who  played  in  the 
great  intellectual  revival  of  his  time  one  of  the 
homeliest,  yet  one  of  the  most  necessary  of  parts. 

For  d'Holbach  provided  the  rendez-vous. 



The  great  Encyclopaedia  of  Diderot  and  d'Alembert 
was  to  bring  light  to  the  people ;  the  '  Literary- 
Correspondence  '  of  Melchior  Grimm  was  to  bring 
light  to  kings.  The  Encyclopsedia  was  the  con- 
ception of  those  who  knew  that  they  were  preparing 
mighty  changes,  but  who  did  not  live  to  see  them ; 
the  '  Literary  Correspondence  '  was  the  work  of  a 
man  whose  shrewd  eyes  foresaw  little,  but  who 
lived  to  see  all.  The  Encyclopaedia  is  dead,  as  a 
great  man  dies,  having  finished  his  work.  The 
'Correspondence' — which  could  not  cure  those 
royal  maladies,  blindness,  ignorance,  and  hardness 
of  heart — still  lives  a  gay  little  life  as  the  most 
perfect  contemporary  record  of  any  literary  epoch 
in  history. 

In  1753,  the  sensibilities  of  sentimental  Paris 
were  most  agreeably  touched  by  the  pathetic  story 
of  a  young  gentleman  who,  having  had  his  suit 
rejected  by  a  charming  opera-dancer,  Mademoiselle 


From  an  Engraving,  after  Carmontelle,  in  the  Bibliothdque 

Natianale,  Paris. 


Fel,  straightway  took  to  his  bed  and  to  a  trance  in 
which  he  passed  whole  nights  and  days,  '  without 
speaking,  hearing,  or  answering,  as  if  he  were  dead.' 
The  Abb6  Eaynal  and  Jean  Jacques  Eousseau 
constituted  themselves  his  nurses.  They  were 
both  too  romantic,  and  too  much  the  children 
of  their  time,  to  try  the  common-sense  expedient 
of  leaving  the  rejected  lover  severely  alone,  or  of 
throwing  a  bucket  of  cold  water  over  him.  But 
when  Eousseau  saw  a  smile  on  the  doctor's  face 
as  he  left  the  patient's  room,  his  heart  began  to 
harden  a  little.  And,  sure  enough,  one  fine  morn- 
ing up  gets  the  invalid,  dresses,  resumes  his 
ordinary  course  of  life  and  never  again  men- 
tions his  malady  to  his  nurses — even  to  thank 

Frederic  Melchior  Grimm  was,  however,  no 
sentimental  fool.  He  ^  was,  indeed,  one  of  the 
most  keen-witted  of  his  great  nation,  though,  like 
many  other  children  of  the  Fatherland,  he  had 
on  the  surface  of  his  worldly  wisdom  a  fine  layer 
of  Teutonic  sentimentality.  If  the  Briton  finds 
the  sentiment  mawkish,  not  so  the  Frenchman. 
Grimm's  extraordinary  disease  became  his  pass- 
port into  the  most  exclusive  circles  in  Paris. 

Born  at  Eatisbon  on  September  26,  1723,  with 
a  poor  Lutheran  pastor  for  a  father,  he  had  always 
known  that  he  must  make  his  own  way  in  life,  and 


had  always  made  it.  At  school  he  found  a  useful 
friend  in  one  of  Baron  Schomberg's  sons,  and 
continued  the  friendship  at  the  University  of 
Leipzig.  When  he  was  still  a  student  there,  he 
wrote  a  play,  '  Banise,'  which,  before  he  left,  he 
was  a  sufficiently  just  and  astute  critic  to  find 
'  pitiable.'  On  leaving  Leipzig  he  went  to  live  in 
the  Schombergs'  house,  as  tutor  to  his  friend's 
younger  brother.  Frederick  the  Great  had  already 
made  the  French  language  the  fashion  ;  and  as  at 
the  Schombergs'  Grimm  heard  nothing  else,  he 
soon  learnt  to  speak  and  read  it.  In  1748  came 
the  first  opportunity  of  his  life ;  he  took  his  pupil 
to  Paris,  and  remained  there  after  the  boy  had 
returned  to  his  family. 

To  say  that  Grimm  throughout  his  existence 
always  fell  on  his  feet,  would  be  a  misleading 
idiom.  He  always  fell  on  his  head.  The  moment 
he  found  himself  thrown  into  a  new  set  of  circum- 
stances, his  calm  judgment  skilfully  arranged  them 
to  the  very  best  advantage.  At  this  time  he  was 
twenty-five  years  old,  rather  tall  and  imposing 
looking,  something  of  a  dandy  in  his  dress  (his 
enemies  declared  that  he  powdered  his  face  and 
scented  himself  like  a  woman),  with  very  little 
money  in  hand,  no  prospects,  and  a  retrospect  of 
that  dismal  failure  '  Banise,'  and  that  '  thin  travel- 
ling   tutorship.'     In   a   very   short   time   he   got 


himself  appointed  as  reader  to  the  Duke  of  Saxe- 
Gotha.  The  salary  was  thin  enough  here  too ; 
but  the  Duke  was  a  great  person,  and  the  Duchess 
was  the  friend  and  the  correspondent  of  Voltaire, 
and  to  be,  for  the  rest  of  her  life,  the  friend  and 
correspondent  of  Melchior  Grimm  as  well.  He 
was  not  long  in  finding  a  situation  much  more 
lucrative  and  responsible. 

In  1749,  he  became  secretary,  guide,  and  friend 
to  a  certain  dissipated  young  dog  of  a  Comte 
de  Frise,  or  Frisen,  who  was  always  borrowing 
money  of  his  famous  uncle,  Marshal  Saxe,  and 
certainly  needed  a  prudent  Grimm  to  look  after 

If  Grimm  was  only,  or  principally,  honest 
because  honesty  is  the  best  policy,  if  he  did  his 
duty  because  in  the  long  run  duty  is  the  surest 
road  to  happiness,  yet  the  facts  remain  that  he 
did  act  uprightly,  and  that  he  had  settled  prin- 
ciples, a  strict  course  of  conduct  and  a  strong 
line  of  action,  in  an  age  when  no  motives,  good, 
bad,  or  indifferent,  produced  such  happy  results 
in  his  friends. 

Beneath  that  veneer  of  German  emotionalism 
he  was,  perhaps,  something  cold  and  selfish,  stern 
and  reserved.  But  if  he  was  never  ardent,  he  was 
always  faithful ;  if  he  was  not  generous,  he  was 
just.     He  occupied  in  his  life  many  positions  of 


great  trust  and  responsibility,  and  came  out  of 
them  all  with  honour.  One  can  love  a  Diderot, 
but  one  must  needs  respect  a  Grimm. 

He  had  plenty  of  work  to  do  in  Paris.  Besides 
the  impossible  task  of  keeping  Frisen  in  order,  he 
had  his  own  way  and  fortune  to  make  and  his  own 
friends  to  cultivate.  His  passion  for  Mademoiselle 
Pel  was  not  his  only  introduction  to  Parisian  society. 
Jean  Jacques  Eousseau  (then  a  brilliant  pauper 
copying  music  for  his  support  and  dreaming 
masterpieces  of  which  he  had  not  yet  written  a 
line)  introduced  him  to  d'Holbach  and  to  Madame 
d'fipinay.  He  soon  became  fast  friends  with 
Madame  GeofFrin  (to  whose  tranquil  common- 
sense  his  judicious  and  well-ordered  mind  par- 
ticularly appealed),  with  Helvetius,  and  with 
Marmontel ;  he  began  a  life-long  friendship  with 
Diderot,  and  once  a  week  at  Frisen's  house,  in  the 
Faubourg  St.  Honore,  he  gave  the  most  delightful 
bachelor  dinner  to  his  friends,  played  exquisitely 
on  the  clavecin  for  their  benefit,  took  their  amuse- 
ment at  his  German-French  in  perfectly  good  part, 
and  was  entirely  witty  and  agreeable,  while  keep- 
ing always  a  certain  reserve  and  remaining  entirely 
master  of  the  situation. 

In  a  very  short  time  the  poor  German  tutor 
was  one  of  the  most  sought  after  persons  in  Paris, 
feted  and  petted  by  all  the  great  people,  and  minded 


to  live  no  longer  as  bear-leader  to  boys,  but  by 
his  own  head  and  pen. 

His  taste  for  music  gave  him  a  golden  oppor- 
tunity. Shall  we  have  French  music  at  the  opera, 
or  Italian?  Paris  was  as  hotly  divided  on  the 
question,  said  Eousseau,  as  if  the  affair  had  been 
one  of  religion.  The  French  side  had  all  the 
money,  the  fashion,  and  the  women,  and  the  Italian 
side  a  very  little  party  of  real  connoisseurs.  Grimm 
joined  the  Italians  and  wrote  on  their  behalf,  in 
1753,  a  pamphlet  called  '  The  Little  Prophet  of 
Boehmischbroda,'  in  which  the  style  is  profanely 
imitated  from  the  prophets  of  the  Old  Testament. 
As  Madame  de  Pompadour  was  on  the  French  side, 
which  she  protected  by  force  and  by  summarily 
dismissing  the  Italian  singers  on  the  spot,  the 
pamphlet  did  no  harm  to  French  music;  but  it 
made  Grimm  famous.  Voltaire  read  it,  and  asked 
how  this  Bohemian  dares  to  have  more  wit  than 
We  have  ?  And  this  Bohemian,  having  made  so 
successful  a  literary  venture  in  a  small  part,  now 
looked  round  with  his  clever  eyes  for  a  larger  one. 

In  1754,  he  travelled  for  a  time  with  d'Holbach, 
who  had  just  lost  his  wife ;  and  in  the  following 
year  Frisen,  whom  Grimm's  guardianship  had  not 
been  able  to  save  from  the  fatal  consequences  of 
his  depravity,  died,  and  left  his  mentor  a  free 


In  1755  he  began  what  was  to  be  the  work  of 
his  Kfe  and  is  his  true  title  to  glory,  the  '  Literary 

The  idea  of  communicating  to  the  sovereigns 
of  Europe  by  letter,  news  of  the  literature,  science, 
and  philosophy  of  Paris,  that  centre  of  the  world's 
cultivation,  was  not  a  new  one.  In  limiting  the 
freedom  of  the  press,  sovereigns  had  limited  their 
own  freedom.  Newspapers  were  official  bulletins, 
not  daring  to  utter  unacceptable  truths  or  un- 
palatable opinions  on  any  truths.  Kings,  as  well 
as  their  subjects,  yawned  over  journals  of  this 
kind.  So  King  Frederick  the  Great  originated  the 
idea  of  paying  an  intelligent  man  in  Paris  to  write 
him  direct  the  news  and  the  gossip  of  the  capital. 
Theriot,  Voltaire's  friend,  filled  the  post  very 
unsuccessfully,  and  Frederick  complained  bitterly 
that  Theriot  never  had  a  cold  in  his  head  without 
scribbling  four  pages  of  rodomontade  to  tell  him 
about  it.  La  Harpe  occupied  the  same  position 
to  the  Czarevitch  Paul,  and  Suard  and  the  Abbe 
Eaynal,  Grimm's  nurse  and  friend,  to  the  Duchess 
of  Saxe-Gotha. 

The  idea  was  good,  but  it  had  been  badly 
worked  out.  As  Diderot  and  d'Alembert  quickened 
into  mighty  life  the  little  Encyclopaedia  of  Chambers, 
so  Grimm  breathed  vitality  into  the  languishing 
'  Literary  Correspondence.'     He  saw  in  it,  first  of 


all,  the  germ  of  a  great  career ;  but  he  saw  in  it, 
too,  an  influence  which,  by  informing  the  minds 
of  kings,  might  change  the  destiny  of  kingdoms. 
To  teach  the  people  was  difficult  in  those  days ; 
to  teach  their  rulers  was  well  nigh  impossible. 
Here,  then,  was  a  chance,  the  one  splendid  chance, 
of  showing  them  the  progress  of  the  world,  the 
ominous  advance  of  knowledge  and  of  the  old 
order  towards  the  new.  Eaynal  handed  over  to 
Grimm  the  correspondence  he  had  established  with 
the  Courts  of  the  north  and  south  of  Germany  ; 
and  with  this  small  connection  Grimm  began  his 

The  '  Literary  Correspondence '  remains  to-day 
the  only  literary  review  which  has  survived  the 
passage  of  time,  and  is  still  not  merely  a  great 
name,  but  a  great  living  work.  The  '  Spectator ' 
and  the  '  Tatler '  of  Addison  and  Steele  are  kept 
eternally  fresh  by  an  exquisite  charm  of  style; 
but  they  rarely  aspired  to  serious  criticism,  and 
are  mainly  a  record  of  modes  and  manners,  not 
of  literature  or  of  science.  The  '  Literary  Corre- 
spondence '  is  as  much  to-day  as  on  the  day  it  was 
written,  the  guide-book  to  the  letters,  the  art,  and 
the  drama  of  the  eighteenth  century;  the  open 
door  to  its  society  and  to  the  mind  of  cultivated 
Paris;  a  book  which  is  equally  indispensable  to 
the  scholar  or  to  the  novelist  writing  of  its  period, 


and  which  is  certainly  both  the  most  instructive 
and  the  most  amusing  literary  compilation  extant. 

Of  no  settled  length  and  in  manuscript,  it  was 
despatched  to  its  subscribers  twice  a  month.  It 
had  no  fixed  price,  its  readers  paying  as  much  as 
they  chose  for  it,  or  as  much  as  Grimm  could 
make  them  pay.  His  old  friend  the  Duchess  of 
Saxe-Gotha  was,  as  has  been  seen,  one  of  his  first 
subscribers.  The  Landgrave  of  Hesse,  the  Queen 
of  Sweden,  and  Catherine  the  Great  of  Eussia  soon 
joined  his  select  and  limited  clientele.  Stanislas 
Augustus,  King  of  Poland,  the  Margrave  of 
Anspach,  and  the  Grand  Duke  of  Tuscany  joined 
later.  Frederick  the  Great,  after  his  unlucky 
experience  with  Theriot,  was  extremely  dilatory 
and  vacillating  in  having  anything  to  do  with  it ; 
when  he  did  add  his  name  to  the  list  of  subscribers 
he  never  paid  his  subscription  and  harried  Grimm 
to  insert  the  scandals  and  the  on  dits  of  the  cafes 
and  the  Court,  which  Grimm  declined  to  do. 

For  greater  security,  the  sheets  did  not  go 
through  the  post,  but  through  the  legations  of 
the  various  countries.  The  thing  was,  in  fact,  a 
secret,  and  a  well-kept  secret,  for  more  than  half 
a  century,  and  never  knew  the  danger  of  print 
until  it  was  published  in  1812,  under  the  Empire, 
with  many  cautious  Napoleonic  omissions.  In  the 
meantime,  its  secrecy  and  the  limited  number  of 


its  readers  gave  the  discreet  Grimm,  who  declared 
that  the  most  enlightened  reasoning  was  not  worth 
a  night  in  the  Bastille,  and  who  was  cautious  to 
the  very  fibre  of  his  bones,  the  opportunity  of 
being  at  once  candid,  impartial,  and  safe. 

He  set  forth  a  flaming  prospectus,  promising 
an  'unlimited  truthfulness.'  The  sheets  shall  be 
'  dedicated  to  confidence  and  frankness  ! '  They 
were.  To  those  distant  Courts  and  Kings  there 
went  forth  every  fortnight  the  inimitable  criti- 
cisms of  the  most  bold,  just,  and  cool  critic 
who  ever  breathed.  He  not  only  analysed,  with 
extraordinary  brilliancy  and  fairness,  the  writings 
of  Voltaire,  of  friend  Eousseau,  and  of  Bufibn,  but 
he  sat  in  discerning  judgment  on  the  works  of 
English  novelists  and  poets.  He  criticised  books 
which  have  not  lived,  in  criticisms  which  are 
undying.  As  to  the  value  and  the  longevity  of 
the  productions,  he  was  sometimes,  naturally  and 
inevitably,  mistaken ;  but  as  a  rule  his  opinions 
have  been  confirmed  by  posterity  and  have 
weathered  the  test  of  time. 

He  also  described  to  his  readers  the  condition 
of  the  drama,  the  plots  of  the  plays,  the  art  of  the 
players.  Of  course  he  was  clever  enough  if  the 
season  was  rather  a  dull  one,  to  fill  out  his  pages 
with  extracts  from  a  tragedy  or  from  a  novel; 
sometimes,   it   is   said,   the   ingenious  man  gave 


quotations  from  works  which  had  never  been 

He  dealt  with  medical  questions,  and  did 
not  think  it  beneath  his  dignity  to  examine  the 
merits  of  a  mouth-wash.  He  wrote  many  pages 
on  Tronchin,  the  great  physician,  and  on  inocu- 
lation. Here,  surely,  was  one  of  the  chances  to 
enlighten  kings — kings  who,  more  than  any  other 
class  of  men,  suffered  and  died  from  the  ignorant 
tyranny  of  their  physicians,  and  who  had  to  wait 
eighteen  centuries  before  any  man  told  them  that 
fresh  air  was  a  valuable  property,  and  health  a 
kingdom  to  be  taken  by  temperance,  soberness, 
and  chastity. 

If  there  was  a  scientific  marvel  in  the  air,  such 
as  ventriloquism,  why,  of  course,  Grimm  must  tell 
his  correspondents  about  that ;  and  the  music, 
French  or  Italian,  of  the  capital,  must  also  receive 
its  comment.  Then  there  was  the  news  of  the 
day,  and  of  Academical  disputes,  and,  though 
Grimm  had  declared  he  would  not  report  them, 
occasional  piquant  anecdotes  with  a  sufficient  spice 
of  scandal  in  them  to  have  pleased  King  Frederick. 

He  further  drew  pen-portraits  of  celebrities. 
Nothing  could  be  more  fair  and  shrewd  than 
Grimm's  character- sketches.  He  solves  in  them 
the  supreme  difficulty — how  to  be  at  once  honest 
and  charitable. 


Next  there  is  an  epigram  to  be  reported.  While 
a  charade  that  has  amused  a  Parisian  fine  lady  is 
surely  good  enough  for  a  German  duchess  ! 

Politics  were  supposed  to  be  excluded,  and 
they  were  excluded  in  the  sense  that  there  were 
no  remarks  on  public  events  until  those  events  had 
become  so  notorious  that  the  '  Correspondence  '  did 
not  add  to  its  readers'  knowledge  of  them.  But 
though,  or  because,  he  wrote  for  governors,  Grimm 
adduced  his  theories  on  government,  he  himself 
believing  in  the  divine  rights  neither  of  the 'Social 
Contract '  nor  of  kings.  To  his  views  on  tole- 
rance, finance,  and  education,  he  gave  utterance 
soberly,  thoughtfully,  and  at  length.  He  had  a 
subscription  list  in  his  paper  for  Voltaire's  unfor- 
tunate proteges,  the  Calas ;  and  if  his  pen  was  to 
flow  freely,  as  he  had  promised,  how  could  he 
stay  his  indignation  against  the  trial  and  the  sacri- 
fice of  the  Chevalier  de  la  Barre  ? 

To  the  friend  and  intimate  of  the  philosophers, 
the  most  ordinary  event  suggested  philosophical 
reflections.  His  religious  views  could  hardly  help 
appearing ;  but  Grimm's  was  a  quiet  agnosticism, 
and  had  nothing  in  common  with  the  excited  cer- 
tainties of  Diderot's  unbelief.  He  had,  of  course, 
his  theories  on  women,  on  art,  and  on  languages  ; 
and  he  aired  them  all.  He  brought  out,  in  the 
same  tantalising  fashion  in  which  serials  are  now 



produced  in  weekly  illustrated  newspapers,  Dide- 
rot's two  novels. 

He  was  himself  not  only  the  first  critic  of  his 
day,  but  he  was  thinker  as  well  as  chronicler, 
worldling  and  scholar,  reporter  and  savant. 
Foreigner  though  he  was,  he  had  learnt  to  write 
the  French  language  in  a  style  inimitably  clear, 
supple,  and  forcible.  His  command  of  irony  alone 
should  have  been  a  fortune  to  him.  Add  to  this, 
his  singularly  wise,  calm  head,  and  his  unrivalled 
position  as  the  friend  of  the  women  of  the  salons 
and  the  nobility  of  Paris  as  well  as  of  its  writers 
and  politicians.  Further,  this  critic  of  music  was 
himself  a  musician,  this  judge  of  authors  him- 
self an  author.  He  lived  in  one  of  the  most 
momentous  and  thrilling  periods  in  the  history 
of  this  earth,  and  in  one  of  the  most  stimulating 
of  her  cities,  and  was  able  to  write  wholly  with- 
out fear  of  consequence  for  readers  of  whose 
intelligent  interest  he  was  sure,  while  he  had  ever 
before  him  the  magnificent  hope  of  so  opening  the 
hearts  and  feeding  the  knowledge  of  those  readers 
that  they  might  turn  and  do  good  unto  their  people 
and  be  a  blessing,  and  not  a  curse,  to  their  lands. 

Consider  all  this,  and  it  is  not  marvellous 
that  Grimm  remains  the  first  journalist  and  the 
*  Literary  Correspondence  '  the  first  newspaper  in 
the  world. 


It  is  hardly  necessary  to  say  that  it  gave  its 
editor  an  enormous  amount  of  work.  Chaise  de 
paille,  his  friends  called  him  in  allusion  to  his  dili- 
gence; later,  when  he  began  to  travel,  Grimm 
suggested  the  nickname  should  be  altered  to  chaise 
de  paste.  He  had  many  secretaries  working  under 
him.  One,  Meister,  was  attached  to  him  all  his 
life,  and  benefited  largely  under  his  will.  When 
he  was  away  from  Paris  the  good-natured  Diderot 
made  a  brilliant  substitute  ;  and  Madame  d'fipinay 
took  up  a  delicate  pen  to  become  the  first,  and 
surely  the  most  charming,  of  women  journalists. 

Only  a  few  months  after  his  arrival  in  Paris 
Grimm  had  been  introduced  to  this  little  black- 
eyed,  bright-witted,  and  all  too  seductive  wife  of 
a  worthless  husband.  In  1752,  at  Frisen's  table, 
he  had  heard  her  name  insulted,  and  had  fought 
a  duel  for  its  honour.  By  1755,  on  his  return 
from  his  journey  with  d'Holbach,  he  became  a 
familiar  figure  in  her  salon.  First  her  wise  and 
masterful  friend,  he  was  soon  her  despotic  lover. 

It  is  always  a  vexed  point  of  morals  to  deter- 
mine how  far  right  can  come  out  of  wrong,  how 
far  a  cause  initially  bad  can  be  said  to  be  good 
in  its  results.  It  must  certainly  be  conceded  in 
Grimm's  case  that,  having  put  himself  into  a  false 
position  and  remaining  there,  he  acted  not  only 
sensibly   and   discreetly,   but   even   honestly  and 

M  2 


conscientiously.  He  found  Madame  d'Epinay 
silly,  as  are  so  many  clever  women,  and  he  in- 
sisted on  her  behaving  with  judgment  and  dis- 
cretion. One  of  his  first  acts  was  to  demand  that 
her  old  lover,  Francueil,  whom  she  still  permitted 
to  visit  her  as  a  friend,  should  be  given  his  dis- 
missal. With  Duclos,  man  of  letters,  and  of 
character  rough,  dissipated,  and  unscrupulous, 
he  bade  her  break  entirely.  Then  he  turned  to 

It  has  been  justly  said  of  Grimm  that  he  never 
lost  a  friend  save  Jean  Jacques.  In  1756  Madame 
d'Epinay,  acting  on  one  of  those  excessively  foolish 
impulses  which  she  herself  felt  to  be  wholly  fasci- 
nating, and  which  had  already  more  than  once 
shipwrecked  her  life,  gave  Eousseau  the  little 
Hermitage  in  the  forest  of  Montmorency,  close  to 
her  own  country-house  of  La  Chevrette. 

Grimm  had  not  known  Eousseau  for  six  years 
without  knowing  his  heart.  He  looked  up  suddenly 
from  the '  Correspondence.'  '  You  have  done  Eous- 
seau a  bad  service,'  he  told  Madame  d'fipinay 
sternly, '  and  yourself  a  worse.'  Still,  it  was  done. 
In  1757,  that  belle  laide,  Madame  d'Houdetot,  also 
had  a  house  close  to  La  Chevrette,  and  there 
attracted  the  notice  of  Eousseau.  After  a  brief 
summer  day  of  dehght,  she  grew  tired  of  her 
vehement  admirer,  or  her   lover,  Saint-Lambert, 


grew  tired  of  him  for  her.  At  any  rate,  there 
burst  over  those  three  houses  in  the  Montmorency 
forest  a  storm  of  fierce  passions  and  scandal- 
ous recriminations.  All  Paris  stood  watching. 
Diderot  plunged  impulsively  into  that  angry  sea. 
Eousseau  accused  Madame  d'fipinay,  in  terms 
which  no  self-respecting  woman  could  have  for- 
given, of  being  the  writer  of  a  certain  fatal  anony- 
mous letter ;  and  she  forgave  him.  Grimm  had 
been  appointed  secretary  to  the  Duke  of  Orleans, 
and  was  absent  on  duty  in  Westphalia.  He  did 
not  spare  his  little  mistress's  pusillanimous  weak- 
ness. '  Your  excuses  are  feeble  .  .  .  you  have 
committed  a  very  great  fault,'  he  wrote.  Hurry- 
ing home,  he  dealt  with  Eousseau  in  terms  of  un- 
mistakable plainness.  He  made  Madame  d'Epinay 
cast  him  off  there,  at  once,  and  for  ever,  and 
carried  her  off  to  Geneva  on  the  excuse,  a  just 
excuse  in  every  sense,  of  her  health. 

But  the  consequences  of  her  folly  were  not 
ended.  Eousseau  defamed  her  character  in  the 
'  Confessions,'  and  in  that  unique  masterpiece  of 
scurrility  he  speaks  of  Grimm  as  '  a  tiger  whose 
fury  increases  daily.'  Diderot  declared  that  Jean 
Jacques  made  him  believe  in  the  existence  of  the 
devil  and  of  hell.  But  Grimm  wrote  an  obituary 
notice  of  Eousseau  in  his  'Correspondence'  of 
admirable  justice  and  moderation,   and  spoke  of 


him  as  '  embittered  by  sorrows  which  were  of  his 
own  making  but  not  the  less  real,'  and  as  '  a  soul 
at  once  too  weak  and  too  strong  to  bear  quietly 
the  burden  of  life.'  It  must  be  allowed  that 
Grimm  could  be  magnanimous. 

Having  saved  Madame  d'Epinay  from  her 
friends,  it  remained  to  him  to  save  her  from  herself. 
At  Geneva  he  put  her  under  the  care  of  the  great 
and  good  Tronchin,  and  made  her  write  for  the 
'  Correspondence.'  He  helped  her  to  manage  the 
miserable  remains  of  the  fortune  her  husband's 
mad  extravagance  had  left  her,  supervised  the 
education  of  her  children,  and  even  showed  her 
the  harm  she  did  them  by  speaking  disrespectfully 
of  their  father.  His  love  was  not  fervent,  perhaps, 
but  it  corrected  her  follies  and  her  weakness,  and 
made  her  do  and  be  her  best.  It  had  at  least  some 
of  the  tokens  of  a  good  and  honourable  feeling. 

These  visits  to  Geneva  were  undoubtedly  the 
happiest  time  in  her  life.  On  this  first  one,  which 
lasted  eight  months,  from  February  to  October 
1759,  she  and  Grimm  often  saw  and  talked  with 
Voltaire ;  and  Grimm  greatly  appreciated  the 
society  of  the  solid  and  sensible  Genevans  and  the 
cultivated  Tronchins.  Mademoiselle  Fel  came  to 
stay  with  Voltaire  at  Les  Delices,  and  when  Grimm 
saw  her  there  he  proved  convincingly  the  truth 
that  'the  man's  love,  once  gone,  never  returns.' 


But  his  real  passion  was  not  even  for  Madame 
d'Epinay.  His  dominant  taste  was  his  ambition  ; 
his  dearest  mistress,  his  career. 

Already  secretary  to  the  Duke  of  Orleans,  on 
the  last  evening  of  his  stay  at  Geneva,  he  heard 
the  satisfactory  news  that  he  was  made  Envoy 
for  Frankfort  at  the  Court  of  France.  True,  M. 
rArnbassadeur,  as  Diderot  called  him,  soon  lost  his 
post  by  joking  in  a  despatch  at  the  expense  of  an 
official  person;  but  none  the  less  he  was  rising 
in  the  world.  Presently  he  was  busy  settling 
M.  d'Epinay 's  bankruptcy  and  helping  Madame  to 
arrange  a  satisfactory  marriage  for  her  daughter. 
Tyran  le  Blanc  he  was  called  by  her  and  her 
circle.  But,  after  all,  no  woman  is  happy  till  she 
has  met  her  master.  Well  for  her  if  she  find  one 
as  I'udicious  and  upright  as  Melchior  Grimm. 

He  was  less  with  her  as  the  years  went  by, 
though  not  in  any  sense  less  faithful.  In  1762 
the  Duchess  of  Saxe-Gotha  appointed  him  her 
charge  d'affaires  ;  and  when  she  died  her  husband 
made  him  Councillor  of  Legation,  with  a  pension. 

He  met  Frederick  the  Great  when  he  was 
travelling  in  Germany  in  1769 ;  and  Frederick, 
forgetting  his  grievance  that  Grimm  would  not 
turn  the  '  Correspondence '  into  a  scandalous 
society  newspaper,  fell  under  the  spell  of  his 
fellow-countryman's    encyclopasdical    knowledge 


and  dignified  affability.  Grimm,  said  Meister,  had 
the  rare  talent  of  living  with  great  people  without 
losing  any  of  the  freedom  and  independence  of  his 

When  he  was  nearly  fifty  years  old,  in  1771, 
he  resumed  an  employment  of  his  youth,  and,  at 
a  very  large  salary,  consented  to  be  tutor  to  the 
Hereditary  Prince  of  Hesse,  a  boy  about  nineteen. 
The  pair  went  to  England  and  were  well  received 
at  its  ultra-German  Court.  Grimm  was  delighted 
with  '  the  simplicity,  the  naturalness,  and  the  good 
sense '  of  the  English  character.  The  Landgravine, 
young  Hesse's  mother,  sold  her  diamonds  that  her 
son  might  prolong  his  visit  in  so  delightful  a 
country.  And  then  Grimm  brought  him  back  to 
Paris  and  formed  his  mind  and  manners  in  the 
society  of  d'Holbach  and  Diderot,  of  Madame 
Necker  and  Madame  Geoffrin. 

In  1773,  tutor  and  pupil  went  to  St.  Petersburg 
to  attend  the  marriage  of  Wilhelmina,  the  Prince 
of  Hesse's  sister,  with  the  Czarevitch  Paul.  In  a 
very  short  time  the  skilful  Grimm  had  gained  the 
great  Catherine's  interest  and  consideration.  Even 
Diderot's  warm  heart  and  glowing  genius  (he  was 
staying  at  the  Eussian  Court  when  Grimm  arrived 
there)  did  not  win  her  so  well  as  the  German's 
delicate  tact  and  keen  perceptions.  Herself  before 
all  things  a  great  statesman,  how  should  she  not 


respect  the  shrewd  judgment,  the  strength,  and 
the  determination  of  a  Grimm  ?  It  is  so  rare  to 
be  clever  and  wise!  It  was  most  rare  in  the 
eighteenth  century.  Two  or  three  times  a  week 
'Grimm  dined  with  her  Majesty  en  petit  comite — 
those  dinners  at  which  all  men  were  equal,  and  at 
which  no  servants  appeared  to  hamper  the  conver- 
sation. Afterwards  she  talked  alone  with  him  by 
the  hour  together.  He  told  Madame  Geoffrin 
how,  when  he  left  her,  he  would  pace  his  room  all 
night  with  the  splendid  ideas  she  had  suggested 
coursing  through  his  sleepless  brain  :  '  The  winter 
of  1773-74  passed  for  me,'  he  said,  'en  ivresse 
continuelle'  But  when  Catherine  would  have 
permanently  attached  him  to  her  service,  his  stern 
good  sense  helped  him  to  refuse.  There  is  no  such 
dead- weight  on  genius  as  a  post  at  Court — ^be  it  the 
Court  of  a  Catherine  or  a  Frederick — and  Grimm 
knew  it.  '  I  have  never  seen  you  hesitate  about 
anything,'  Madame  d'Epinay  had  once  written  to 
him ;  '  when  you  have  once  decided  with  your 
just,  strong  mind,  it  is  for  ever.' 

His  refusal  was  unalterable,  and  he  returned  to 
Paris.  He  was  sure  enough  of  his  firmness  to  visit 
his  royal  friend  again,  two  years  later,  in  1776. 
He  had  been  acting  tutor  once  more,  to  the  two 
Counts  EomanzofF  this  time.  He  had  taken  them 
to  Naples  to  embrace  Galiani,  to  Ferney  to  see 


Voltaire,  and  to  Berlin  to  see  Frederick.  They 
arrived  in  Petersburg  in  time  for  the  second 
marriage  of  the  Czarevitch,  of  whose  first  marriage, 
with  Wilhelmina  of  Hesse,  Grimm  had  been  the 
principal  promoter.  Catherine  received  him  with 
the  same  flattering  interest  and  offers,  but  he  was 
as  deaf  to  them  as  before.  Then  she  gave  him 
the  title  of  Colonel — to  the  intense  amusement  of 
King  Frederick — and  appointed  him  her  general 
agent  in  Paris  at  a  salary  of  ten  thousand  livres. 

After  his  return  to  the  capital  this  appoint- 
ment formed  a  very  large  occupation  in  his  life. 

His  frequent  absences  had  naturally  not  been 
the  best  thing  in  the  world  for  the  '  Literary 
Correspondence,'  but  it  would  have  been  a  much 
worse  thing  if  Diderot — Grimm's  'patient  milch- 
cow  whom  he  can  milk  an  essay  from  or  a  volume 
from  when  he  lists ' — had  not  been  there  to  do  his 
work.  The  '  Correspondence '  rightly  appears  with 
Diderot's  name  as  well  as  Grimm's  on  its  title- 
page.  In  these  latter  years,  indeed,  its  readers 
often  had  to  be  content,  not  with  Diderot,  but 
with  a  mere  Meister ;  and  when  Grimm  did  write 
himself  it  was  sometimes  carelessly  and  in  a 
hurry.  Not  quite  the  first,  or  the  last,  perhaps, 
to  commit  that  literary  enormity,  he  occasionally 
reviewed  books  he  had  not  taken  the  trouble  to 


His  letters  to  and  from  Catherine,  after  the 
first  few  years,  were  not  conveyed  through  the 
post,  but  by  special  messenger,  and  are  therefore 
delightfully  outspoken.  Grimm's  contain  indeed 
a  good  deal  of  flattery  and  exaggeration;  but 
Catherine's  are  spontaneous  enough.  She  used 
to  say  she  was  as  'frankly  an  original  as  the 
most  determined  Englishman.'  The  pair  wrote 
sometimes  in  French  and  sometimes  in  German. 
They  had  nicknames  for  most  of  the  crowned 
heads  in  Europe.  Of  '  Brother  George  of  England ' 
Catherine  had  always  spoken  with  contempt,  and 
considered  his  loss  of  the  American  colonies  as  '  a 
State  treason.'  But  much  of  the  correspondence 
was  devoted  to  mere  homely  details.  As  her  agent, 
Grimm  bought  the  imperial  rouge  for  the  imperial 
cheeks,  pictures,  books,  and  bon-bons.  He  took 
long  journeys  in  her  interest :  he  supplied  her  with 
architects  when  she  caught  a  fever  for  building ; 
and  presently,  having  been  discreet  matchmaker 
for  the  Hesses  and  the  Czarevitch,  he  was  com- 
missioned to  play  the  same  delicate  part  for  the 
Czarevitch's  daughters. 

He  was  living  now  in  the  Eue  de  la  Chauss^e 
d'Antin.  His  love  of  music  was  still  strong,  and 
on  young  Mozart's  visits  to  Paris,  Grimm  was  his 
kindest  and  most  influential  patron.  The  next 
few  years  saw  the  deaths  of  many  old  friends — 


of  Voltaire,  of  Diderot,  of  Frederick  the  Great,  of 
d'Holbach,  and  of  Madame  d'Epinay.  For  ever 
trying  to  conciliate  all  men,  poor  little  volatile, 
self-deceived  deceiver,  under  Grimm's  masterful 
influence  the  best  qualities  of  her  nature  had 
come  to  the  fore  and  the  worst  receded.  She  was 
to  the  last  true  to  him  as  she  had  never  been 
true  to  anyone  else.  Grimm  adopted  her  grand- 
daughter and  married  her  to  the  Comte  de  Bueil. 

So  far,  his  own  life  had  been  singularly  happy 
and  successful.  If  he  had  loved  unwisely,  he  had 
taken  care  that  the  affection  should  never  be  of 
that  inordinate  kind  which  is  its  own  punishment. 
He  had,  too,  one  of  the  dearest  solaces  of  declin- 
ing life  in  seeing  young  people  growing  up  about 
him.  As  to  his  career,  he  was  not  only  attached 
to  the  royal  house  of  Orleans,  but  he  was  by  now 
Catherine's  Councillor  of  State,  Minister  Pleni- 
potentiary to  the  Duke  of  Saxe-Gotha,  and  Baron 
of  the  Viennese  Empire.  He  was  a  rich  man, 
with  a  fine  collection  of  books,  pictures,  and  vertu. 
He  should  have  died  before  1789. 

In  that  year  came  the  stunning  fall  of  the 
Bastille.  Of  liberty,  Grimm  had  talked  easily 
enough,  but  he  had  also  been  shrewd  enough  to 
doubt  its  promises.  He  had  at  least  nothing  of 
the  calm  confidence  of  the  fine  ladies  of  the  old 
regime  who  drove  out  from  modish  Paris  through 


the  Faubourg  Saint- Antoine  to  look  at  the  ruins  of 
the  great  prison,  as  at  a  sight  prepared — for  their 
amusement.  To  the  wary  German  the  destruction 
of  the  Bastille  spelt  the  ruin  of  France.  The 
Eevolution  sped  on — Vengeance  rushing  through 
the  night  with  a  drawn  sword  in  her  hand. 

In  1790  came  the  great  emigration  of  the  nobles. 
Who  should  be  suspect  if  not  this  correspondent 
of  kings?  Grimm  fled  to  Frankfort;  but  in  two 
months'  time  he  plunged  again  into  the  whirlpool  of 
Paris,  to  rescue  the  Comtesse  de  Bueil,  his  dear 
adopted  grandchild,  then  in  sore  straits.  He  took 
her  to  Aix-la-Chapelle ;  but  in  October  1791  he 
returned  himself  to  the  capital,  to  get  the  Empress's 
letters  out  of  France  if  he  could.  He  found  he  had 
already  been  denounced  in  the  committees  as 
carrying  on  a  correspondence  with  her '  little  favour- 
able to  the  Eevolution.'  His  only  chance  of  safety 
lay,  he  saw,  in  '  extreme  circumspection.'  He  had 
that  quality  by  nature  to  the  full ;  but,  none  the 
less,  stirred  by  a  generous  pity,  history  tells  of  an 
interview  he  had  with  the  royal  saint,  Madame 
Elisabeth,  in  which  he  tried  to  assist  both  her  and 
Marie  Antoinette.  He  could  do  nothing  ;  fate  and 
the  fatal  Bourbon  character  were  too  strong  for  the 
Bourbons  to  be  saved. 

In  1792  Grimm,  who  had  loved  her  long  and 
owed  her  much,  said   farewell  to  Paris  for  ever, 


leaving  behind  him,  as  he  said,  the  fruit  of  the 
wisdom  of  his  whole  life  and  his  entire  fortune,  and 
finding  himself  as  naked  as  when  he  came  into 
the  world.  He  and  Madame  de  Bueil  lodged  over 
a  chemist's  shop  in  Dusseldorf,  and  even  had  to 
sleep  in  the  Natural  History  Museum  of  that  town. 
Grimm's  whole  income  was  Catherine's  pension  of 
two  thousand  roubles ;  her  generosity  indeed  often 
added  to  it,  and  in  1796  she  made  him  Eussian 
Minister  at  Hamburg.  This  was  one  of  the  last 
acts  of  her  life.  She  died,  and  left  her  friend  and 
servant  yet  the  poorer  for  her  loss. 

At  Hamburg  he  had  a  disease  of  the  eye  which 
necessitated  its  removal.  Then  he  retired  to  Gotha 
and  lived  with  the  Comtesse  de  Bueil  in  a  house 
given  him  by  the  Duke  of  Saxe-Gotha,  the  munificent 
Duke  providing  furniture,  linen,  kitchen  utensils — 
everything.  The  Countess's  two  young  daughters 
acted  as  Grimm's  secretaries.  The  music  he  had 
loved  was  still  a  resource  to  him,  and  he  seems  to 
have  kept  to  the  last  something  of  his  old  power 
and  mastery  over  others.  Goethe  found  him,  when 
he  saw  him  in  1801,  still  an  agreeable  man  of  the 
world  and  rich  in  interest  and  experience,  but 
unable  to  conceal  a  profound  bitterness  at  the 
thought  of  his  misfortunes.  Under  the  Directory 
some  of  his  confiscated  property  was  restored  to 
him.     But   it  could   hardly  benefit   him;    he   no 


longer  lived,  he  only  existed.  He,  who  had  been 
born  when  the  Kegent  Orleans  ruled  France  and 
the  old  order  was  at  the  supreme  height  of  its 
magnificence  and  depravity,  was  roused  from  the 
dotage  of  his  last  days  to  hear  the  thunder  of  the 
cannon  of  Jena  and  Austerlitz,  or  the  story  of  the 
peace  concluded  between  Catherine's  grandson, 
Alexander,  and  Napoleon  Bonaparte  upon  the  raft 
at  Tilsit. 

Grimm  died  on  December  19,  1807,  aged 

No  unpleasing  contrast,  this  '  methodical, 
adroit,  managing  man,'  with  his  cold  uprightness 
and  steady  prudence,  to  a  reckless,  out-at-elbows 
Diderot,  or  a  mad,  miserable  Eousseau.  Thrifti- 
ness  and  caution  are  uin-omantic  virtues  and 
even  accounted  selfish ;  but,  after  all,  the  world 
would  have  no  beggars  to  relieve  if  every  man 
laid  by  for  himself. 

If  it  was  the  Encyclopaedists'  mission  to  teach 
the  people  to  reform  their  kings,  it  was  Grimm's 
to  teach  those  kings  to  reform  themselves — to  be 
as  careful  and  judicious  as  he  was.  He  tried ;  but 
from  long  and  close  association  with  them  he  him- 
self caught  at  last  that  disease  epidemic  among 
rulers — oblivion  to  unpleasant  consequences  and  a 
relentless  future — and  never  recovered  from  the 
fearful  shock  which  opened  his  eyes  at  last. 



Most  of  the  reforming  philosophers  of  the  eight- 
eenth century  were  better  in  word  than  deed. 

Helvetius  wrote  himself  down  self-seeker  and 
materialist,  and  in  every  action  of  his  life  gave  his 
utterance  the  lie.  Helvetius  was,  as  Voltaire  had 
been,  a  courtier — not  the  teacher  of  kings,  like 
Grimm,  but  their  friend  and  servant.  Helvetius 
alone  was  at  once  of  that  body,  which  of  all  bodies 
the  philosophers  most  hated,  the  Farmers-General 
— the  extortionate  tax-gatherers  of  old  France — 
and  of  a  practical  philanthropy  Voltaire  himself 
might  have  envied. 

He  belonged  to  a  family  famous  in  the  medical 
profession.  His  great-grandfather,  a  religious 
refugee  from  the  Palatinate,  had  been  a  clever 
quack,  practising  in  Holland.  His  grandfather 
introduced  ipecacuanha  to  the  doctors  of  Paris, 
and  his  father,  having  saved  Louis  XV. 's  life  in 
some  childish  complaint,  was  made  physician  to 
the   Queen   and   Councillor   of  State.      Still,  the 

C^  A  lJEi;^/Ii:Ti.TJS 

I'irlfirJ    .V  JmI,- 

1„^  LS'.^An«.ai 

From  an  Engraving  by  St.  Aubin,  after  the  Portrait  by  Vanloo. 


family  fortunes  were  but  mediocre.  Little  Claude- 
Adrien,  who  was  born  in  1715,  was  at  first  edu- 
cated at  home  by  a  mother  '  full  of  sweetness  and 
goodness.'  Her  tenderness,  perhaps,  was  an  ill 
preparation  for  the  harsher,  wider  world  of  the 
famous  school  of  Saint  Louis-le-Grand,  whither 
Claude-Adrien  was  presently  sent.  It  was  Vol- 
taire's old  school,  and  it  was  Voltaire's  old  school- 
master, Pere  Poree,  who  helped  the  shy,  sensitive, 
new  boy  with  kindliness  and  encouragement,  and 
first  roused  in  him  a  love  of  letters.  Grimm,  who 
nearly  always  has  his  pen  pointed  with  malice 
when  he  writes  of  Helve  tins,  records  that  poor 
Claude-Adrien  always  seemed  stupid  at  school 
through  being  the  victim  of  a  chronic  cold  in  the 
head :  an  unromantic  afiliction,  which  would  make 
genius  itself  uninteresting.  Young  Helvetius  was 
no  genius,  however. 

After  leaving  school  he  was  sent  to  an  uncle, 
who  was  a  superintendent  of  taxes  at  Caen,  to 
learn  finance.  There  he  wrote  the  usual  boyish 
tragedy  of  promise — never  to  be  performed — 
and  the  usual  youthful  verses,  and  was  made  a 
member  of  the  Caen  Literary  Academy.  The 
sensitive  shyness  soon  disappeared.  Young, 
healthy,  and  handsome,  loving  literature  much 
and  women  more,  an  excellent  dancer  and  fencer, 
clever,  cool,  agreeable,  and  much  minded  to  get 


on  in  the  world,  young  Helvetius  comes  up  to  Paris. 
At  three-and-twenty,  in  1738,  being  the  son  of  his 
father,  and  having  the  necessary  financial  equip- 
ment, he  was  made  Farmer-General,  a  post  certain 
to  bring  in  two  or  three  thousand  a  year,  and 
possibly,  with  the  requisite  extortion  and  un- 
scrupulousness,  a  good  deal  more. 

Paris,  in  the  years  between  1738  and  1751, 
was  certainly  the  most  delightful  and  the  most 
seductive  city  in  the  world.  In  the  early  part  of 
that  period,  Madame  de  Tencin,  the  mother  of 
d'Alembert  and  the  sister  of  the  Cardinal,  was 
forming  the  youth  of  the  capital  in  her  famous 
salon.  In  the  later  period,  Madame  de  Pompadour 
was  revealing  to  it  by  her  example  the  whole  secret 
of  worldly  success — a  clear  head  and  a  cold  heart. 
The  Court  was  eternally  laughing,  play-acting,  in- 
triguing. For  the  few,  the  world  went  with  the  live- 
liest lilt ;  and  for  the  many — the  many  were  dumb. 

Helvetius  was  one  of  the  few.  Now  at  Madame 
de  Tencin's,  '  gathering  in  order  that  he  might 
one  day  sow ; '  now  in  the  foyer  of  the  Comedie, 
where  Mademoiselle  Gaussin,  the  charming  comic 
actress,  nourished  a  hopeless  passion  for  him ;  now  at 
the  opera,  seeing  for  the  first  time  BufFon,  Diderot, 
d'Alembert,  and  joining  hotly  in  the  question  of 
French  or  Italian  music,  which  agitated  the  capital 
a  thousand  times   more   than  national  glory  or 


shame  ;  now  at  Madame  de  Pompadour's  famous 
little  dinners  of  the  Entresol,  or  at  Court,  daintily 
distinguishing  between  the  Queen  of  reality  and 
the  poor  Queen  en  titre — the  new  young  Farmer- 
General  was  Everywhere  where  Everybody  who  is 
Anybody  goes,  and  Nowhere  where  Nobody  goes. 
Be  sure  there  was  a  fashionable  shibboleth  then  as 
there  is  now,  and  be  sure  Helvetius  prattled  it  and 
lived  up  to  it.  Grimm  declared  that  if  the  word 
*  gallant '  had  not  been  in  the  French  language,  it 
would  certainly  have  had  to  be  invented  in  order 
to  describe  him. 

One  day,  society  heard  of  him  dancing  at  the 
opera  under  the  mask  of  the  famous  dancer,  Dupre. 
The  next,  he  was  whispered  to  be  the  lover  of  a 
modish  Countess,  who  had  taken  Atheism  as  other 
women  took  Jansenism,  Molinism,  or  a  craze  for 
little  dogs,  and  passionately  imbued  her  lover  with 
the  exhilarating  doctrine  of  All  from  Nothing  to 
Nothing.  Then  he  posed  as  the  amant-en-titre  ot 
the  Duchesse  de  Chaulnes.  For  the  passions  were 
only  a  pose — like  the  opera  dancing.  Helvetius 
was  merely  minded  to  get  on  in  the  world,  and  was 
looking  about  for  the  shortest  cut  to  glory.  He 
soon  saw,  or  thought  he  saw,  a  pleasant  road 
thereto  called  Verse. 

Voltaire,  now  retired  to  Cirey,  science,  and 
Madame  du  Ch^telet,  had  made  poetry  the  fashion. 

K  2 


I  too  will  be  a  poet !  The  young  Farmer-General 
racked  his  sharp  brains  a  little,  and  as  a  result 
sent  Voltaire  some  long,  dismal  cantos  on  '  Happi- 
ness/ The  master  repHed  with  the  kindliest  criti- 
cism, and  offered  advice  so  keen  and  excellent  that 
if  poets  were  made,  not  born,  Helvetius'  verses 
might  still  live.  But,  after  all,  advice  by  post  is 
always  unsatisfactory.  Helvetius'  Farmer-Gene- 
ralship made  periodical  tours  in  the  provinces  an 
agreeable  necessity.  On  a  journey  through  Cham- 
pagne, what  more  natural  than  to  stop  awhile  at 
Cirey,  where  Voltaire  was  writing  '  Mahomet,'  and 
Madame  du  Chatelet  was  the  most  delightful  of 
blue-stocking  hostesses  ?  Between  Arouet  of  five- 
and-forty  and  Claude- Adrien  of  five-and- twenty 
a  warm  friendship  was  cemented.  All  Voltaire's 
correspondence  from  1738  until  1771  is  studded 
with  letters  to  Helvetius.  The  young  man  was 
his  '  very  dear  child,'  '  my  rival,  my  poet,  my 
philosopher.'  If  he  took  so  large  and  liberal  a 
view  of  Helvetius'  talents  as  to  declare  that,  as 
a  poet,  he  had  as  much  imagination  as  Milton, 
only  more  smoothness  and  regularity  (!),  yet  he 
was  not  afraid  to  wrap  up  the  pill  of  many  a 
shrewd  home  truth  in  the  fine  sugar-plums  of 

But,   after   all,   is   poetry  the  easiest  way  to 
glory  ?     Claude-Adrien,  returned  to  Paris,  walking 

HELV:6TIUS:  the  CONTEADIGTION        181 

through  the  Tuileries  gardens  one  day,  saw  the 
hideous  Maupertuis,  the  geometrician,  surrounded 
by  all  the  charming  and  pretty  women,  adoring 
him,  and  immediately  decided  to  abandon  verse 
and  be  a  geometrician  instead.  But  before  he  had 
taken  a  couple  of  steps  in  this  direction,  the 
publication  of  the  'Spirit  of  Laws'  in  1748 
electrified  Europe,  and  changed  his  mind.  To 
be  sure,  when,  three  years  earlier,  Montesquieu 
had  brought  the  book  up  to  Paris  and  asked  the 
young  Farmer-General's  judgment  on  it,  Helvetius 
had  replied  that  it  was  altogether  unworthy  of 
the  author  of  the  'Persian  Letters,'  and  had 
strongly  recommended  him  not  to  publish  it. 
Well,  that  advice  can  be  conveniently  forgotten. 
Helvetius  paid  Montesquieu  the  sincerest  of  all 
flattery  by  resolving  on  the  spot  to  be  a  philo- 
sopher himself. 

If,  between  these  eventful  years  of  three-and- 
twenty  and  six-and-thirty,  Helvetius  had  been 
nothing  but  an  astute,  ambitious  young  man- 
about-town,  seeking  the  likeliest  way  to  fame  and 
fortune,  he  would  have  been  undistinguishable 
from  hundreds  of  others  around  him,  and  not 
worth  distinguishing.  But,  at  his  worst,  there 
was  something  in  him  which  was  never  in  that 
selfish  crowd  which  thronged  the  galleries  of 


As  tax-gatherer,  it  was  his  interest  and  pro- 
fession to  extract  the  uttermost  farthing — and  he 
did  not  do  it.  Nay,  he  pleaded  in  high  places  for 
the  wretches  it  was  his  business  to  ruin.  When  in 
Bordeaux  they  rebelled  against  an  iniquitous  new 
tax  on  wine,  he  encouraged  the  rebellion.  Though 
he  was  constantly  at  Court  and  in  a  position 
which  entailed  lavish  personal  expenditure,  he 
pensioned  Thomas,  the  poet,  out  of  his  own 
pocket ;  and  by  an  annuity  of  a  thousand  ecus 
opened  the  world  of  letters  to  Saurin,  hereafter 
the  dramatist.  The  Abbe  Sabatier  de  Castres 
declared  himself  to  have  been  the  recipient  of 
his  delicate  and  generous  charity.  Marivaux,  the 
novelist  and  playwright,  who  was  personally  very 
uncongenial  to  Helvetius,  received  from  him  a 
yearly  sum  of  two  thousand  livres. 

It  was  in  Helvetius'  house  in  Paris,  as  he 
afterwards  told  Hume,  the  historian,  that  he  con- 
cealed, coming  and  going  for  '  nearly  two  years,' 
Prince  Charles  Edward,  the  Young  Pretender,  at  a 
time  '  when  the  danger  was  greater  in  harbouring 
him  in  Paris  than  in  London '  on  account  of  the 
clause  in  the  treaty  of  Aix-la-Chapelle  of  the  year 
1748,  which  stipulated  that  France  should  shelter 
no  member  of  the  family  in  her  domains.  Hel- 
vetius, hke  many  another  generous  dupe,  fell  a 
victim  to   the   Stuart  grace  and  charm :    '  I  had 


all  his  correspondence  pass  through  my  hands ; 
met  with  his  partisans  upon  the  Pont  Neuf; 
and  found  at  last  I  had  incurred  all  this  danger 
and  trouble  for  the  most  unworthy  of  all  mortals,' 
for  a  poor  coward  who  '  was  so  frightened  when 
he  embarked  on  his  expedition  to  Scotland '  that 
he  had  literally  to  be  carried  on  board  by  his 
attendants.  (It  is  fair  to  say  that  Helvetius  made 
this  statement  only  on  the  testimony  of  a  third 
person  whose  name  is  not  given.)  The  sole  good 
quality,  indeed,  his  host  ended  by  finding  in  this 
faint  hope  of  Britain,  the  guest  for  whom  he  had 
risked  his  safety  and  spent  his  money,  was  that  he 
was  '  no  bigot.'  As  this  meant  he  had  '  learnt  a 
contempt  of  all  religions  from  the  philosophers  in 
Paris,'  not  everyone  would  consider  even  this  an 

In  1740,  Madame  de  Grafiigny,  famous  as  the 
gossiping  visitor  at  Cirey  with  whom  Voltaire  and 
Madame  du  Chatelet  quarrelled,  had  arrived  in 
Paris,  and  there,  in  the  Eue  d'Enfer,  near  the 
Luxembourg,  had  set  up  her  salon.  To  insure 
its  success,  Madame,  who  was  five-and-forty,  fat 
and  unbeautiful,  had  with  her  a  charming  niece, 
Mademoiselle  Anne  Catherine  de  Ligniville,  who 
was  then  one-and-twenty,  fair,  handsome,  intelli- 
gent. A  year  or  two  before,  her  aunt  had  adopted 
and  so  rescued  her  from  a  convent,  to  which  the 


fact  of  the  unfortunate  girl  having  nineteen  living 
brothers  and  sisters  had  condemned  her. 

In  1747,  Madame  de  Graffigny  attained  celebrity 
by  her  '  Letters  from  a  Peruvian.'  Turgot  did  her 
the  honour  of  criticising  them  :  frequented  her 
5a/(>7z,  which  rapidly  became  famous,  and  at  which, 
in  1750,  Helvetius,  still  young,  rich,  agreeable, 
and  unmarried,  became  a  constant  visitor.  For  a 
year,  he  was  there  perpetually.  '  The  sheepfold 
of  hel  esprit^'  people  called  it.  Helvetius  liked  to 
be  thought  a  hel  esprit,  and  it  was  de  rigueur 
to  admire  the  hostess's  'Peruvian'  and  her  play 
'  C^nie,'  which  was  produced  in  1750.  He  soon 
came  to  admire  something  besides  her  writings. 
'  Minette,'  as  she  nicknamed  her  niece,  was  such  a 
woman  as  fashionable  eighteenth-century  society 
rarely  produced — such  a  woman  as  any  fashion- 
able society  rarely  produces.  Strong  in  mind  and 
body,  good,  straightforward  and  serene,  refresh- 
ingly unconventional  in  an  age  which  had  no  god 
but  the  convenances,  not  half  so  clever  as  that 
accomplished  old  fool,  her  aunt,  and  a  hundred 
times  more  sensible  —  such  was  Mademoiselle  de 

Helvetius  studied  her  in  his  calm  manner  for  a 
year,  and  at  the  end  of  it  proposed  to  her.  Then 
he  resigned  his  Farmer-Generalship  with  its  rich 
income  ;  bought,  to  pacify  his  father,  the  post  of 

HELV:6tIUS:   the  CONTBADICTION        185 

maitre  d'hotel  to  Queen  Marie  Leczinska,  and  the 
estates  of  Vore  and  Lumigny  in  Burgundy,  and, 
on  June  17, 1751,  married  Mademoiselle  de  Ligni- 
ville,  who  was  a  Countess  of  the  Holy  Eoman 
Empire,  satisfactorily  connected  with  the  nobility, 
and  had  not  a  single  franc  to  her  dot. 

All  these  actions  caused  something  very  like 
consternation  in  the  world  in  which  Helvetius 
lived.  Give  up  a  Farmer-Generalship  !  The  man 
must  be  mad  !  '  So  you  are  not  insatiable,  then, 
like  the  rest  of  them  ? '  says  Machault,  the  Con- 
troller-General. As  to  the  estates  in  Burgundy, 
one  might  as  well  be  buried  alive  at  once  ! 
While  to  marry  a  woman  who  is  by  now  certainly 
not  a  day  less  than  two-and-thirty,  has  not  an  ecu, 
and  has  a  tribe  of  hungry  brothers  and  sisters 
clinging  to  her,  as  it  w^ere,  is  certainly  not  the  act 
of  a  sane  person  !  Followed  by  the  mingled  pity 
and  contempt  of  all  Paris,  Helvetius  and  his  wife 
left  immediately  for  Vore,  and  settled  down  to  the 
eight  happiest  years  of  their  lives. 

Vore  was  one  of  those  country  estates  which 
would  still  be  called  dull.  In  those  days,  before 
railways,  with  a  starving  peasantry  at  its  gates, 
with  rare  posts  of  the  most  erratic  description, 
and  with  the  vilest  impassable  roads  between  one 
country  house  and  another,  it  might  have  been 
called    not  merely   dull,  but   dismal.     But,  after 


all,  happiness  is  what  one  is,  not  where  one  is. 
Perfectly  content  with  each  other,  the  Helvetius 
would  have  been  contented  in  a  wilderness. 
Minette,  says  a  biographer,  asked  nothing  better 
than  to  adore  her  husband  and  perpetually  to 
sacrifice  herself  to  him. 

If  it  was  not  in  his  calmer  nature  to  adore 
anyone,  his  love  for  her  is  on  the  testimony  of  the 
whole  eighteenth  century.  His  married  happi- 
ness 'bewildered  and  astonished'  it.  'Those 
Helvetius,'  said  a  country  neighbour  discon- 
tentedly, '  do  not  even  pronounce  the  words, 
my  husband^  my  wife,  my  child,  as  we  others 
do.'  'Good  husband,  good  father,  good  friend, 
good  man,'  wrote  unfavourable  Grimm.  The 
easy  prosperity  of  Helvetius'  love  for  his  wife,  its 
freedom  from  storm  and  stress,  left  it,  doubtless, 
a  lighter  thing  than  if  it  had  been  forged  in  the 
fire  and  beaten  by  the  blows  of  affliction  and  re- 
verse. It  was  thus  with  all  his  qualities.  Kind, 
rather  than  lovable ;  charming,  rather  than  great ; 
equable,  because  nothing  in  his  destiny  came  to 
move  the  deep  waters,  or  because  there  were  no 
deep  waters  to  be  moved:  these  were  the  key- 
notes to  Helvetius'  character. 

The  first  child  of  the  marriage,  a  daughter, 
was  born  in  1752,  and  the  second,  also  a 
daughter,  in  1754.     Father  and  mother  devoted 


tliemselves  to  the  education  of  the  little  girls, 
though  in  their  time  polite  society  considered 
that  parents  had  sufficiently  obliged  their  children 
by  bringing  them  into  the  world,  and  that  further 
favours,  such  as  a  judicious  training,  were  entirely 

The  household  was  completed  by  two  super- 
annuated secretaries,  whom  Helvetius  kept,  very 
characteristically,  not  because  he  wanted  them, 
but  because  he  feared  no  one  else  would  want 
them  either.  One  of  them,  Baudot,  had  known 
his  master  from  a  child,  and  spoke  to  him  as  if 
he  were  one  still.  'I  have  certainly  not  all  the 
faults  Baudot  finds  in  me,'  observed  Helvetius 
tranquilly,  'but  I  have  some  of  them.  Who 
would  tell  me  of  them  if  I  did  not  keep  him  ?  ' 

Sometimes  visitors  came  to  Vore,  but  for  so 
sociable  an  age,  not  very  often.  Though  they 
were  always  made  generously  welcome,  they  must 
have  known  they  were  not  necessary  to  that 
menage.  Still,  they  were  useful,  if  only  to  prove 
to  these  married  lovers  how  much  happier  they 
were  alone — just  as  the  four  gay  winter  months 
they  spent  in  Paris  doubled  the  delights  of 
peaceful  Vore. 

The  day  there  began  with  work.  Helvetius 
was  now  firmly  minded  to  achieve  glory  by  means 
of  philosophy — fame  and  sport,  it  is  said,  were  the 


only  passions  lie  had.  He  spent  the  whole 
morning  writing  and  thinking.  In  composition 
he  had  neither  the  hot  haste  of  Diderot  nor 
the  glittering  inspiration  of  Voltaire.  He  wrote 
indeed  painfully  and  laboriously — as  the  author 
born  writes  when  he  is  weary  and  disinclined — as 
a  man  always  writes  whom  nature  has  intended 
for  another  occupation.  Sometimes  one  of  the 
incompetent  secretaries  had  to  wait  for  hours  with 
his  pen  in  his  hand,  while  his  master  wrestled 
with  the  refractory  thought  in  his  brain,  or  waited 
for  the  inspired  phrase  to  come  down  from  on 
high.  His  wife  had  not  much  sympathy  with  his 
philosophies.  The  philosophers  talked  so  much, 
and  as  yet  had  done  so  little  !  But  in  everything 
else  she  was  entirely  at  one  with  her  husband. 

It  would  be  absurd  to  pretend  that  before  the 
Ee volution  there  were  no  noblemen  in  France 
who  did  their  duty  by  their  country  estates  and 
tenants,  who  looked  after  the  poor  on  their  lands, 
and,  so  far  as  they  could,  realised  and  acted  up 
to  the  responsibilities  of  their  position.  There 
is  always  more  goodness  in  the  world  than  there 
appears  to  be,  because  goodness  is  of  its  very 
nature  modest  and  retiring.  But  that  the  con- 
scientious landowner  was  then  a  rare  and  sur- 
prising phenomenon  is  proved  by  the  fact  that 
when  Helvetius   and  his   wife  began   to   devote 


themselves  to  acts  of  benevolence,  everyone 
turned  and  stared  at  them.  To-day,  indeed, 
Helvetius  might  not  be  counted  extraordinarily 
charitable.  But  it  is  not  by  modern  standards 
he  can  be  fairly  judged.  Compare  him  with  the 
immense  majority  of  the  great  financial  magnates 
of  his  day  and  country,  and  he  stands  proven  a 
philanthropist  indeed. 

When  he  first  bought  Yore,  he  had  given  a 
M.  de  Vasconcelles,  a  poor  gentleman  who  owed 
the  estate  a  large  sum,  a  receipt  for  the  whole, 
putting  it  into  his  hands  saying,  '  Take  this  paper 
to  keep  my  people  from  bothering  you ; '  and  he 
further  settled  a  handsome  gift  of  money  on  him, 
to  help  him  to  educate  his  family.  One  of  his 
next  actions  was  to  bring  a  good  doctor  to  the 
place,  establish  him  on  it,  and  himself  pay  for 
the  medical  services  thus  rendered  the  peasants. 
Daily  he  and  Minette  visited  the  poor,  accom- 
panied by  this  doctor  and  a  Sister  of  Mercy. 
He  also  set  up  in  the  place  a  stocking  manu- 
factory— and  so,  perhaps,  supplied  an  idea  to 
Voltaire.  He  encouraged  and  helped  the  farmers 
to  farm  their  land  ;  acted  as  unpaid  judge  in  their 
disputes;  and  in  hard  times  let  them  off  their 
debts.  There  are  a  dozen  stories  of  the  private 
individuals  he  helped.  One  day,  it  is  a  ruined 
Jesuit  priest,  who  has  abused  his  confidence  and 


kindness.  Helvetius  finds  one  of  the  Jesuit's 
friends,  and  gives  liim  fifty  louis  for  his  old 
enemy.  '  Do  not  say  it  comes  from  me — he  has 
injured  me,  and  he  would  feel  humiliated  at 
receiving  a  gift  from  me.'  Could  delicacy  go 
further  ? 

Another  day,  when  he  was  driving,  a  woodman 
leading  a  horse  and  cart  was  irritatingly  slow  in 
getting  out  of  the  way  of  the  carriage.  Helvetius 
lost  his  patience.  'All  right,'  said  the  man,  'I 
am  a  coquin  and  you  are  an  honest  man,  I  suppose, 
because  I  am  on  foot  and  you  are  in  a  carriage.' 
'  I  beg  your  pardon,'  says  Helvetius,  with  his  fine 
instincts  instantly  awake,  '  you  have  given  me  an 
excellent  lesson,  for  which  I  ought  to  pay ; '  and 
he  gave  the  man  a  sum  which,  though  handsome, 
was  less  generous  than  the  apology. 

When  famine  came  to  Vore,  Helvetius'  deep 
purse  and  wise  judgment  were  both  to  the  fore. 
Did  the  man  accomplish  less  good  because,  though 
his  heart  was  kind,  it  was  not  warm;  because, 
though  he  relieved  suffering,  there  was  that  in 
his  temperament  which  saved  him  from  suffer- 
ing with  it?  If  the  philanthropist  must  have 
either  a  cool  head  or  a  hot  heart,  better  the  cool 
head  a  thousand  times.  He  will  do  much  less 

Many  of  Helvetius'  charities  were  performed 


through  his  valet,  whom  he  bade  say  nothing  about 
them,  even  after  his  death.  Sometimes  he  concealed 
from  his  wife,  and  she  concealed  from  him,  the 
good  deeds  of  which  each  had  been  guilty. 

A  peasant  had  been  imprisoned  for  poaching 
on  Helvetius'  grounds,  and  his  gun  confiscated. 
Helvetius  went  to  him,  bought  back  his  gun,  paid 
his  fine,  and  had  him  set  free,  begging  his  silence 
because  Minette  had  warned  him  to  be  severe  with 
the  man  as  he  deserved.  That  warning  troubled 
her  generous  heart.  She  too  went  to  the  culprit, 
gave  him  money  to  pay  his  fine  and  repurchase 
his  gun,  and  vowed  him  to  secrecy.  Whether  the 
peasant  kept  the  secrets  (as  well  as  the  price  of 
two  fines  and  two  guns),  and  husband  and  wife 
confessed  to  each  other,  history  does  not  relate. 

There  is,  indeed,  a  reverse  side  to  Helvetius' 
character  as  enlightened  landowner.  Carlyle,  in 
his  '  Essay  on  Diderot,'  quotes  Diderot's  '  Voyage 
a  Bourbonne,'  in  which  the  ex-Farmer-General  is 
portrayed  as  a  cruelly  strict  preserver,  living  in 
the  midst  of  peasants  who  broke  his  windows, 
plundered  his  garden,  tore  up  his  palings,  and 
hated  him  so  savagely  that  he  dared  not  go  out 
shooting  save  with  an  armed  escort  of  four-and- 
twenty  keepers.  Diderot  added  that  Helvetius 
had  swept  away  a  little  village  of  huts  which  the 
poor    people    had    built    on    the    fringe   of   his 


preserves ;  that  the  good  philosopher  was  a 
coward,  and  the  unhappiest  of  men.  But  it  must 
be  remembered  that  Diderot  did  not  speak  from 
first-hand  observation,  but  drew,  and  said  he  drew, 
all  his  information  from  a  Madame  de  Noce,  a 
neighbour  of  Helvetius.  Now  happy,  unsociable 
people  like  Helvetius  and  his  wife  are  not  likely 
to  be  popular  in  a  limited  country  society,  which 
would  expect  much  from  them,  and  get  practically 
nothing.  Saint-Lambert  and  Marmontel  both 
speak  of  Helvetius'  liberality,  generosity,  and 
unostentatious  benevolence.  Morellet,  who  was 
his  closest  intimate  for  many  years,  adds  like 
testimony,  and  especially  mentions  his  mercy  to 
poachers.  One  story  illustrating  it  has  been  told. 
Another  runs  that  Helvetius  found  a  man  poaching 
under  the  very  windows  of  his  house,  and  at  first 
naturally  inclined  to  wrath,  curbed  himself :  '  If 
you  wanted  game,  why  did  you  not  ask  me  ?  I 
would  have  given  it  to  you.' 

Perhaps  the  truth  of  the  whole  matter  lies  in 
that  anecdote.  The  keen  sportsman  and  preserver 
did  sometimes  lose  his  temper  and  forget  his 
compassion :  his  better  self  soon  recalled  it,  and 
that  rare  disposition  of  humility  and  love  for  his 
fellows  hastened  to  make  amends. 

In  1755,  the  book  to  which  he  had  devoted 
those  long,  laborious  mornings  at  Vore  (by  which 


I  must  certainly  achieve  glory,  if  I  am  to  achieve 
it  at  all!)  was  finished  at  last.  It  was  to  be  called 
'  De  I'Esprit ' — not  to  be  translated  '  Wit,'  as 
Croker  translated  it,  but  something  much  more 
serious — '  On  the  Mind.' 

It  set  out  to  prove  a  new  theory  of  human 
action,  and  a  new  system  of  morality.  Virtue  and 
vice?  There  are  no  such  things.  Self-interest, 
rightly  understood,  is  the  explanation  of  the  one, 
and  self-interest,  misunderstood,  of  the  other. 
Selfishness  and  the  passions  are  the  sole  main- 
springs of  our  deeds.  So  far  from  character  being 
destiny,  as  Novalis  is  to  declare,  destiny  is  in  all 
cases  character.  Everybody  is  the  creature  of 
his  environment  and  his  education.  Free  Will  ? 
What  free  will  to  be  an  honest  man  has  the  child 
of  thieves,  brought  up  to  thieve  in  a  slum  ? 
Change  his  condition,  and  you  change  him. 
Leave  him,  and  he  will  steal  as  certainly  as  fire 
burns  and  the  waves  beat  on  the  shore.  As  for 
the  vaunted  superiority  of  the  human  intelligence 
over  the  brutes,  '  an  accident  of  physical  organisa- 
tion '  can  account  for  that.  We  are  as  the  brutes, 
only  a  little  better,  and  the  difference  is  wholly  of 
degree,  not  of  kind. 

Put  these  theories,  with  their  showy  falsehood 
and  their  substratum  of  truth,  on  the  library  table 
of  any  clever  man,  and  get  him  to  do  his  best  to 



prove  them  by  sophistry  and  ingenuity,  by  trick, 
by  subterfuge,  by  illustration — somehow,  any- 
how, so  that  he  prove  them  to  the  hilt — and  the 
result  will  be  pretty  well  what  Helvetius  made  it. 
There  was  scarcely  a  good  story,  or  a  bad  one, 
he  had  heard  in  his  early  gay  life  in  Paris  that  he 
did  not  bring  in,  by  hook  or  by  crook,  to  point 
and  enliven  his  paradox.  Madame  de  Graffigny 
told  Bettinelli  that  nearly  all  the  notes  were  the 
'  sweepings '  of  her  salon. 

'  On  the  Mind '  is  entertaining  or  nothing — diffi- 
culties presented  solely  that  they  may  be  wittil}^ 
demolished — easy,  inaccurate,  trifling  ;  a  style  '  in- 
sinuating and  caressing  .  .  .  made  for  light  minds, 
young  people  and  women,'  says  Damiron  ;  a  book 
which  fashion  might  skip  at  its  toilette,  and  then, 
on  the  strength  of  remembering  two  or  three  of 
its  dubious  anecdotes,  claim  a  complete  knowledge 
of  its  bizarre  philosophy.  For  it  was  but  a 
hizarrerie — a  jeu  d' esprit — and  Helvetius  knew  it. 
He  was  merely  concerned  to  see  how  far  his  im- 
possible theories  could  be  made  plausible,  and 
wrote  them  to  catch  the  public  ear,  and  turn  their 
author  into  the  lion  and  darling  of  the  season. 

When  the  thing  was  ready  he  took  it  to 
Tercier,  the  censor,  who  passed  it,  suggesting  only 
the  omission  of  a  few  too  complimentary  references 
to  free-thinking  Hume.     Helvetius  cut  them  out. 


Malesherbes,  during  its  printing,  observed  uneasily 
that  the  book  contained  '  some  very  strong  things  ' 
— insolent  remarks,  for  instance,  on  that  dear, 
crusted  old  despotism  under  which  we  all  live, 
and  certainly  a  suggestion  that  any  means  to  over- 
throw tyranny  are  permissible.  But,  all  the  same, 
in  May  1768  it  received  its  privilege.  Majesty  was 
graciously  pleased  to  accept  a  copy  from  the  author, 
our  maitre  d'hotel.  It  was  already  in  the  hands  of 
the  philosophers.     And  everybody  began  to  read. 

It  would  not  have  been  wonderful,  if  the 
theories  had  had  a  little  more  vraisemblance,  that 
most  people,  particularly  people  who  had  devoted 
their  lives  and  their  fortunes  to  others,  who  had 
laboured  in  poverty  that  other  men  might  be  free 
and  rich,  should  object  to  see  their  self-denial  set 
down  as  self-interest,  and  to  be  informed  that  the 
highest  aspiration  of  their  soul  was  really  nothing 
but  a  morbid  condition  of  the  body.  But,  con- 
sidering their  manifest  absurdity,  it  is  wonderful 
that  these  assertions  were  taken  seriously. 

Madame  du  Deffand,  indeed,  might  naturally 
say  that  in  making  self-interest  the  mainspring  of 
conduct,  Helvetius  had  revealed  everybody's  secret. 
He  had  so  certainly  discovered  hers.  But  Turgot, 
whose  life  was  to  do  good,  had  better  have  laughed 
at  an  absurdity  than  have  risen  up  to  condemn  it 
as  'philosophy  without  logic,   literature  without 

0  2 


taste,  and  morality  without  goodness/  A  Con- 
dorcet,  whose  long  devotion  to  duty  was  rewarded 
only  with  ruin  and  death,  need  not  have  troubled 
to  loathe  it.  Eousseau  immediately  sat  down  to 
refute  it :  some  of  the  most  inspired  pages  of  his 
'  Savoyard  Vicar '  still  glow  with  the  hatred  with 
which  it  inspired  him.  Grimm  wisely  only  pooh- 
poohed  it.  Voltaire  grumbled  that  his  pupil  had 
promised  a  book  on  the  Mind,  and  presented  a 
treatise  on  Matter;  that  he  had  'put  friendship 
among  the  bad  passions,'  and,  much  worse  than  all, 
has  actually  compared  me — me — to  two  such  feeble, 
second-rate  luminaries  as  Crebillon  and  Fontenelle ! 
No  wonder  that  he  found  the  title,  '  De  I'Esprit,' 
equivocal,  the  matter  unmethodical,  all  the  new 
things  false  and  all  the  old  ones  truisms. 

For  a  very  short  time,  however,  approved  or 
disapproved,  taken  as  folly  or  mistaken  for  reason, 
the  book  went  its  way  gaily.  It  bade  fair  to 
become  what  Helvetius  had  meant  it  to  be — the 
success  of  a  season.  But  for  the  besotted  stupidity 
of  the  Government,  it  never  would  have  been 
anything  else. 

One  unlucky  day  the  Dauphin,  who  was  more 
virtuous  than  wise,  came  out  of  his  room  with 
a  copy  in  his  hand  and  fury  in  his  face.  '  I  am 
going  to  show  the  Queen  the  sort  of  thing  her 
maitre  d! hotel  prints. 


On  August  10,  1758,  the  privilege  for  its 
publication  was  revoked.  Tercier  was  deprived 
of  his  office.  'On  the  Mind'  was  furiously 
attacked  in  the  religious  papers.  The  avocat 
general,  Fleury,  pronounced  it  'an  abridgment 
of  the  Encyclopaedia.'  The  Archbishop  of  Paris 
declared  it  struck  at  the  roots  of  Christianity.  At 
Court,  Helvetius  was  all  at  once  'regarded  as  a 
child  of  perdition,  and  the  Queen  pitied  his  mother 
as  if  she  had  produced  Anti-Christ.'  Eome  banned 
the  accursed  thing.  On  January  31,  1759,  the 
Pope  attacked  it  with  his  own  hand  in  a  letter. 
On  February  6  the  Parliament  of  Paris  condemned 
it.  On  February  10  it  was  publicly  burned  by 
the  hangman,  with  Voltaire's  '  JSfatural  Law.'  On 
April  9  the  Sorbonne  censured  it,  and  declared  it 
to  contain '  the  essence  of  the  poisons '  of  all  modern 

Helvetius,  from  being  the  happiest  of  easy- 
going, benevolent  philosophers,  found  himself,  as 
it  were  in  a  second,  in  a  position  of  great  danger, 
and  what  CoUe  in  his  Journal  called  '  cruel  pain. 
His  friends  hotly  urged  upon  him  a  retractation 
to  soften  the  certain  punishment  awaiting  him. 
His  mother  begged  it  from  him  with  tears.  Only 
Minette,  a  sterner  and  a  braver  soul,  refused, 
though  '  a  great  personage '  besought  her,  to  add 
her  own  entreaties  to  that  end. 


Still,  it  had  to  be  done.  Something  of  a  coward 
this  Helvetius,  as  CoUe  suggested  now,  as  Diderot 
had  suggested  before  ?  The  rich  and  easy  life  he  had 
led  does  not  breed  courage  certainly.  But,  after 
all,  Helvetius  only  did  what  Voltaire  and  many  a 
better  man  declared  it  was  essential  to  do  in  that 
day.  He  produced  a  '  Letter  from  the  Eeverend 
Father  .  .  .  Jesuit,'  in  which  he  stated  that  he 
had  written  in  perfect  innocence  and  simplicity, 
and  (this  was  undoubtedly  true)  that  he  had  not 
had  the  slightest  idea  of  the  effect  his  book  would 
create.  He  added,  in  the  stiff  phraseology  of  the 
time,  words  to  the  effect  that  he  was  an  exceedingly 
religious  man  and  very  sorry  indeed.  The  amende 
was  so  far  accepted  that  the  Parliament  simply 
condemned  him  to  give  up  his  stewardship,  and 
exiled  him  for  two  years  to  Yore. 

What  the  book  could  never  have  done  for 
itself,  or  for  its  author,  persecution  did  for  them 
both.  '  On  the  Mind '  became  not  the  success  of 
a  season,  but  one  of  the  most  famous  books  of 
the  century.  The  men  who  had  hated  it,  and  had 
not  particularly  loved  Helvetius,  flocked  round 
him  now.  Voltaire  forgave  him  all  injuries,  in- 
tentional or  unintentional.  '  What  a  fuss  about 
an  omelette ! '  he  had  exclaimed  when  he  heard 
of  the  burning.  How  abominably  unjust  to  per- 
secute a  man  for   such  an   airy  trifle   as  that! 


'^''  I  disapprove  of  what  you  say,  but  I  will  defend  to 
the  death  your  right  to  say  it,'  was  his  attitude 
now.^But  he  soon  came,  as  a  Voltaire  would 
come,  to  swearing  that  there  was  no  more  mate- 
rialism in  '  On  the  Mind '  than  in  Locke,  and  a 
thousand  more  daring  things  in  'The  Spirit  of 
Laws.'  Turgot  and  Condor cet  forgave  the  philo- 
sophy, in  their  pity  for  the  philosopher.  D'Alem- 
bert  made  common  cause  with  the  man  with  whom 
he  had  nothing  else  in  common.  Eousseau  in- 
stantly stopped  writing  his  refutation.  Diderot 
roundly  swore  '  On  the  Mind '  was  one  of  the  great 
books  of  the  age.  Though  Eome  had  censured  it, 
cardinals  wrote  to  condole  with  its  author  on  the 
treatment  it  had  received.  It  was  translated  into 
almost  all  European  languages.  Presently,  Eng- 
land published  an  edition  of  her  own.  And  Hel- 
vetius,  when  that  two  years'  exile — a  punishment 
surely  only  in  name? — was  over,  returning  to 
Paris,  found  himself  the  most  distinguished  man  in 
the  capital. 

In  their  fine  hotel  in  the  Eue  Sainte-Anne 
(Eue  Helvetius,  the  municipality  of  1792  re- 
christened  it,  and  Eue  Saint -Helvetius,  the 
cockers  of  Paris  !)  he  and  his  wife  received  the 
flower  of  French  society.  Turgot  introduced  to 
them  Morellet,  who  soon  became  a  daily  visitor, 
rode  with  them  in  the  Bois,  and  stayed  with  them 


in  the  country.  To  their  Tuesday  dinners  at 
two  o'clock  came  Condorcet,  d'Alembert,  Diderot, 
d'Holbach,  Galiani,  Marmontel,  Saint-Lambert, 
Eaynal,  Gibbon,  and  Hume—'  the  States-General 
of  the  human  mind,'  says  Garat.  Only  time- 
serving Buffon,  in  order  not  to  offend  the  Court, 
gave  up  visiting  at  the  house.  If  Galiani  found 
the  religious,  or  irreligious,  views  of  the  salon 
too  free,  Madame  his  hostess  shared  his  opinion, 
and  would  often  purposely  disturb  a  too  daring 
conversation  by  drawing  aside  one  of  the  coterie 
to  talk  with  her  a  part.  Helvetius  himself  was 
still,  as  he  had  ever  been,  listener  rather  than 
talker ;  or  talker  chiefly  when  he  laid  before  his 
friends,  with  a  naivete  and  simplicity  wholly  at 
variance  with  the  sophistry  and  artificiality  of  his 
writing,  the  difficulties  he  had  encountered  in  it  that 
morning,  or  some  theories  which  it  had  suggested. 

Sometimes,  directly  dinner  was  over,  he  slipped 
out  to  the  opera,  and  left  his  wife  to  do  the 
honours  alone.  When  they  were  not  entertaining 
themselves,  they  rarely  went  out,  unless  it  were 
on  Fridays  to  Madame  Necker's.  'Jealous  ot 
his  wife,'  said  acid  Grimm,  accounting  for  this 
unsociability.  'Happy  with  her,'  is  perhaps  a 
truer  solution. 

But  if  their  own  entourage  was  thus  satisfactory, 
the  Court  was  still  bitterly  hostile.     Though  Hel- 


vetius,  of  course,  knew  very  well  that  that  hostility 
had  been  the  advertisement  to  which  his  book 
owed  everything,  still,  its  injustice  rankled. 

Admiring  England  invited  him  to  her  shores ; 
and  on  March  10,  1764,  he  landed  there,  accom- 
panied by  his  two  daughters,  Elizabeth  and 
Genevieve,  who,  being  only  ten  and  twelve  years 
respectively,  were  certainly  rather  young  for  their 
father  to  be  seeking  husbands  for  them  among 
'  the  immaculate  members  of  our  august  and 
incorruptible  senate,'  as  Horace  Walpole  declared 
that  he  was. 

All  the  great  people,  including  King  George 
the  Third,  received  the  persecuted  philosopher 
with  empressement.  '  Savants  and  politicians ' 
flocked  to  be  introduced  to  him.  Gibbon  found 
him  '  a  sensible  man,  an  agreeable  companion,  and 
the  worthiest  creature  in  the  world.'  Hume 
(remembering  the  compliments  it  contained  and 
the  many  more  it  would  have  contained  but  for 
that  wretched  censor)  naturally  thought  '  On  the 
Mind '  the  most  pleasing  of  writings,  and  had  even 
entered  into  an  agreement  with  its  author  to 
translate  it  into  English,  if  he,  on  his  part,  would 
translate  Hume's  philosophical  works  into  French. 
(This  bargain  was  never  concluded.)  Warburton, 
indeed,  declined  to  meet  this  French  '  rogue  and 
atheist'   at  dinner.     But  Helvetius,  as  a  whole, 


had  every  reason  to  like  Englishmen,  and  he  came 
back  to  France,  Diderot  told  Mademoiselle  Yolland, 
as  madly  attached  to  England  as  d'Holbach  was 
the  reverse.  '  This  poor  Helvetius,'  says  Diderot, 
to  excuse  him,  'saw  only  in  England  the  per- 
secutions his  book  had  brought  him  in  France.' 
There  may  certainly  be  truth  in  that. 

A  year  later,  in  1765,  he  went  to  stay  with 
Frederick  the  Great.  That  astute  monarch  had  not 
at  all  approved  of  '  On  the  Mind.'  '  If  I  wanted 
to  punish  a  province,  I  would  give  it  to  philo- 
sophers to  govern,'  said  he.  But  he  found  Hel- 
v^tius,  as  all  the  world  found  him,  a  thousand 
times  better  than  his  book,  and  observed  very 
justly  that  in  writing  he  had  much  better  have 
consulted  his  heart  than  his  head. 

But  that  was  what  Helvetius  could  never  do. 

When  he  got  back  to  Yore,  to  Minette 
and  the  little  daughters  (he  had  not  found  any 
spotless  and  disinterested  members  of  parliament 
to  marry  them  and  enjoy  their  fortunes  of  fifty 
thousand  pounds  apiece),  he  settled  down  to 
literature  again  and  wrote,  with  seven  years'  severe 
and  unremitting  labour,  '  On  Man,  his  Intellectual 
Faculties,  and  his  Education,'  which  was  a  sort  of 
defence  of  '  On  the  Mind '  and  an  answer  to  the 
criticisms  both  friends  and  foes  had  brought 
against  that  work.     If  he  had  been  persistently 


lively  on  '  Mind,'  he  was  persistently  dull  on 
'  Man.'  When  it  was  published,  after  his  death, 
only  a  few  friends  who  had  loved  its  author  de- 
fended it.  Mademoiselle  de  Lespinasse  voiced  a 
very  general  opinion  when  she  declared  herself 
'  staggered '  at  its  preposterous  length ;  and  Grimm 
(of  course)  declared  that,  for  his  part,  he  would 
rather  have  ten  lines  of  the  dear  little  Abbe 
Galiani  than  ten  volumes  such  as  that. 

Meanwhile,  it  had  given  Helvetius  the  best 
solace  chagrins  and  declining  life  can  have — a 
regular  occupation.  He  was  not  old,  and  he  was 
framed,  says  Guillois,  to  be  a  centenarian.  But 
at  that  epoch  men  spent  their  health  and  strength 
with  such  fearful  prodigality  in  their  youth,  that 
they  rarely  lived  beyond  what  is  now  called 
middle  age.  Helvetius  was  not  more  than  five- 
and-fifty  when  he  became  conscious  of  failing 
powers.  Sport,  which  had  been  the  delight  of 
his  life,  lost  its  zest.  The  bankrupt  condition  of 
his  country,  her  light-hearted  descent  to  ruin,  lay 
heavily  now  on  a  soul  framed  by  nature  to  take  the 
world  serenely  and  to  see  the  future  fair.  He  was 
occupied,  it  is  true,  to  the  end  in  those  works  of 
benevolence  and  kindness  which  pay  an  almost 
certain  interest  in  happiness  to  him  who  invests  in 
them.  Then,  too,  to  the  last,  there  was  his  wife, 
who  might  have  loved  a  better  man  than  he,  but 


who — love,  fortunately  for  most  people,  not  being 
given  entirely  to  worth — spent  on  him  the  fidelity 
and  devotion  of  her  life. 

On  December  26,  1771,  Helvetius  died.  He 
was  buried  in  the  Church  of  Saint-Eoch,  in  Paris. 

Minette,  a  very  rich  widow,  bought  a  house 
in  Auteuil,  where,  visited  by  Turgot,  Condorcet, 
Benjamin  Franklin,  Morellet,  and  the  famous 
young  doctor,  Cabanis,  she  lived  '  to  love  those 
her  husband  had  loved,  and  to  do  good  to  those  he 
had  benefited.'  Franklin,  it  is  said,  would  fain 
have  married  her.  And  Turgot — who  knows? 
Elizabeth  and  Genevieve,  enormously  rich  heir- 
esses, were  married  on  the  same  day,  a  year  after 
their  father's  death,  each  to  a  Count. 

In  1772,  'On  Man'  was  published,  with  the 
reception  which  has  been  recorded.  That  early 
poem,  '  Happiness,'  also  now  publicly  appeared  for 
the  first  time,  with  a  prose  preface  by  Saint- 
Lambert — the  prose,  said  Galiani,  being  much 
better  than  the  verse. 

To  Helvetius'  works,  or  rather  to  his  work,  for 
'  On  the  Mind '  is  the  only  one  that  counts,  is  now 
generally  meted  the  judgment  which  should  have 
been  meted  to  it  when  it  appeared.  Catch  thistle- 
down, imprison  it,  examine  it  beneath  a  microscope, 
and  a  hundred  learned  botanists  will  soon  be 
confabulating  and  fighting  over  it.     Put  it  in  the 


free  air  and  sunshine — and,  lo  !  it  is  gone.  '  On 
the  Mind'  was  but  thistledown,  and  the  winds 
have  blown  it  away. 

But  the  man  who  wrote  it  deserves  recollection 
because,  though  he  wrote  it,  he  and  Turgot  alone 
among  their  compeers  realised  in  practice  that  the 
best  way  to  do  good  to  mankind  is  to  do  good 
to  individual  man,  here  and  to-day,  and  that  the 
surest  means  to  relieve  the  sorrows  of  the  world  is 
to  help  the  one  poor  Lazarus  lying,  full  of  sores, 
at  the  gate. 



Among  Voltaire's  friends  Turgot  and  Condorcet 
at  least  were  not  merely  great,  but  also  good 
men.  Even  Condorcet,  though  himself  of  virtuous 
and  noble  life,  had  not  that  high  standard  of  living, 
that  sterner  modern  code  of  purity  and  upright- 
ness, which  were  remarkably  Turgot's. 

But  Turgot  was  something  more  even  than  the 
best  man  of  his  party.  He  was  the  best  worker. 
While  Voltaire  clamoured  and  wept  for  humanity, 
while  d'Alembert  thought,  Grimm  wrote,  Diderot 
talked,  and  Condorcet  dreamed  and  died,  Turgot 
laboured.  Broad  and  bold  in  aim,  he  was  yet  con- 
tent to  do  what  he  could.  Of  him  it  might  never 
be  said  '  L'amour  du  mieux  t'aura  interdit  du  bien.' 
To  do  one's  best  here  and  now,  with  the  wretched 
tools  one  has  to  hand,  in  the  teeth  of  indolence, 
obstinacy,  and  the  spirit  of  routine,  to  compromise 
where  one  cannot  overcome,  and  instead  of  sitting 
picturing  some  golden  future,  to  do  at  once  the 
little  one  can — that  was  this  statesman's  policy. 

From,  an  Engraving  by  Le  Beau,  after  the  Portrait  by  Troy. 


It  was  so  far  successful,  that  all  men  now  allow 
that  if  any  human  power  could  have  stemmed  the 
avalanche  of  the  French  Eevolution,  it  would  have 
been  the  reforms  of  Turgot. 

His  father  was  the  Provost  of  Merchants  in 
Paris,  and  has  earned  the  gratitude  of  Parisians 
by  enlarging  the  Quai  de  I'Horloge  and  joining  it  by 
a  bridge  to  the  opposite  bank  of  the  Seine,  and  by 
erecting  the  fountain  in  the  Eue  de  Grenelle  de 
St.  Germain. 

Anne  Eobert  Jacques  was  his  third  son,  and  a 
timid,  shy  little  creature.  His  mother,  who,  en 
vraieParisienne,  thought  everything  of  appearance 
and  manners,  worried  him  on  the  subject  of  his 
clumsiness  and  stupidity,  which  naturally  made 
the  child  self-conscious  and  increased  the  faults 
fourfold.  When  visitors  arrived  to  flatter  Madame 
by  admiring  her  children,  Anne  Eobert  hid  under 
the  sofa  or  the  table ;  and  when  he  was  removed 
from  his  retreat,  could  produce  no  company 
manners  at  all.  No  wonder  the  mother  never  even 
suspected  the  strong  intellect  and  the  wonderful 
character  that  so  much  awkwardness  concealed. 

Anne  Eobert's  birth  was  contemporaneous 
with  Voltaire's  visit  to  England,  and  took  place 
on  May  10,  1727.  The  child  had  already  two 
brothers.  The  eldest  was  bound,  after  the  foolish 
custom  of  the  day,  to  follow  his  father's  profession ; 


the  second  brother  must  go  into  the  army ;  and 
for  Anne  Kobert  there  was  nothing  left  but  the 

He  followed  Voltaire  and  Helvetius  at  the 
school  of  Louis-le-Grand,  and  when  sufficiently 
advanced,  moved  on  to  the  College  of  Plessis. 
As  a  schoolboy  his  pocket-money  disappeared 
with  the  usual  rapidity,  but  not  in  the  usual  way. 
This  shy  little  student  gave  it  to  his  poorer  com- 
panions, to  buy  books.  From  the  time  he  was 
sixteen — that  is  in  1743 — until  1750,  he  was 
a  divinity  student.  At  Saint-Sulpice,  whither 
he  went  in  1748  on  leaving  Plessis,  he  took  his 
degree  as  a  Theological  Bachelor,  and  from  there 
entered  the  Sorbonne. 

The  Sorbonne,  which  was  swept  away  by  the 
Eevolution,  was  a  very  ancient  Theological  College 
and  in  some  respects  not  unlike  an  English 
university.  Young  Turgot  found  there  Morellet 
and  Lomenie  de  Brienne,  besides  a  certain  Abbe 
de  Cice,  to  whom  in  1749  he  addressed  one  of  the 
first  of  his  writings,  a  '  Letter  on  Paper  Money.' 

In  1749,  Turgot  was  made  Prior  of  the 
Sorbonne,  in  which  role  he  had  to  deliver  two 
Latin  lectures,  choosing  for  his  themes,  'The 
Advantages  of  Christianity,'  and  '  The  Advance  of 
the  Mind  of  Man.'  All  the  time  he  was  reading, 
thinking,  observing  on  his  own  account,  studying 


especially  Locke,  Bayle,  Clarke,  and  Voltaire.  A 
priest  he  soon  knew  lie  could  not  be.  To  be  sure, 
the  fact  that  his  friend  Lomenie  de  Brienne  is  a 
sceptic  will  not  prevent  him  becoming  a  cardinal 
and  Archbishop  of  Toulouse ;  he  would  have  been 
Archbishop  of  Paris  had  his  Majesty  not  been  so 
painfully  particular  as  to  demand  that  the  Primate 
of  the  capital  should  at  least  believe  in  a  God. 
But  Turgot  was  of  other  metal  and  was  not 
minded  to  live  a  lie.  All  his  friends  begged  him 
to  keep  to  the  lucrative  career  assigned  him, 
surely,  by  Providence!  'You  will  be  a  bishop,' 
says  Cice  comfortably,  'and  then  you  can  be  a 
statesman  at  your  leisure.' 

The  argument  was  very  seductive ;  but  this 
student  was  in  every  respect  unlike  other  students, 
with  a  character  breathing  a  higher  and  finer  air 
than  theirs.  Morellet  records,  not  without  the 
suspicion  of  a  sneer,  that  from  their  coarse  boyish 
jokes  he  shrank  as  one  shrinks  from  a  blow. 
Even  Condorcet,  himself  so  pure  in  life,  laughed 
at  people  wasting  time  in  quenching  the  desires  of 
the  flesh;  but  Turgot  vindicated  purity  as  well 
as  practised  it,  and  reached  a  level  of  principle, 
as  of  conduct,  which  in  the  eighteenth  century 
was  unfortunately  almost  unique. 

His  father,  wiser  than  most  parents  in  like 
circumstances,  countenanced  his  objections  to  the 



priesthood.  He  had  already  studied  law,  as  well 
as  theology.  In  1750  he  left  the  Sorbonne,  and 
Lom^nie  gave  a  farewell  dinner  in  his  rooms,  with 
Turgot  and  Morellet  of  the  party,  and  the  light- 
hearted  guests  planned  a  game  of  tennis  behind 
the  church  of  the  Sorbonne  for  the  year  1800. 

The  year  1800 !  Before  then  the  Sorbonne 
itself  had  perished  with  Church,  monarchy,  and 
nobility;  shallow  Brienne,  having  done  mighty 
mischief,  had  poisoned  himself  in  the  chateau  his 
ill-earned  wealth  had  been  gained  to  restore; 
Morellet  was  writing  revolutionary  pamphlets; 
and  Turgot  was  dead. 

In  1752,  two  years  after  he  left  the  Sorbonne, 
Anne  Eobert  obtained  the  legal  post  of  Deputy 
Counsellor  of  the  Procurator-General,  and  a  year 
later  was  made  Master  of  Bequests. 

One  must  picture  him  at  this  time  as  a  tall, 
broad-shouldered,  rather  handsome  man,  with  that 
old  boyish  constraint  in  his  manner,  and  that 
strict  high-mindedness  which  his  own  generation 
could  not  be  expected  to  find  attractive.  Add  to 
these  qualities  that  he  was  not  in  the  least  carried 
away  by  dreams  and  visions,  as  were  nearly  all  his 
friends,  that  even  then  he  saw  the  world  as  it  was, 
and  meant  to  do  with  it  what  he  could — that, 
though  in  lofty  aim  he  may  have  been  an  ideahst, 
he  never  fell  into  the  idealist's  fault  of  believing 


that,  because  there  is  everything  to  do,  he  must 
do  everything,  or  nothing.  Just,  reasonable, 
practical — what  a  wholesome  contrast  to  your 
visionary  Eousseaus,  ay,  and  to  your  impulsive 
Voltaires  !  He  was  not  a  brilliant  person,  this ;  it 
is  said  that  he  was  slow  in  everything  he  under- 
took. Nor  had  he  given  over  the  vigour  of  his 
youth  and  the  strength  of  his  understanding  to 
any  one  party.     He  was  studying  them  all. 

He  was  about  three  or  four  and  twenty  when 
he  first  began  to  go  into  the  intellectual  society  of 
Paris — when  Montesquieu,  d'Alembert,  Galiani, 
Helvetius,  found  the  stiffness  of  manner  more  than 
redeemed  by  the  wealth  of  the  mind.  Presently 
he  was  introduced  to  Madame  de  Graffigny,  and 
complimented  her  by  writing  a  long  review  of  her 
'Letters  from  a  Peruvian,'  which,  as  giving  his 
own  views  on  education,  on  marriage,  and  on  the 
fashionable  avoidance  of  parenthood,  retains  all  its 
interest.  It  is  strange  to  hear  a  pre-Eevolutionary 
Frenchman  urging  love-marriages — '  Because  we 
are  sometimes  deceived,  it  is  concluded  we  ought 
never  to  choose' — and  strange  also  that,  out  of 
all  the  great  reformers  with  whom  his  name 
is  associated,  Turgot  alone  perceived  the  fearful 
havoc  which  neglect  of  family  duties  makes  in  the 
well-being  of  the  State. 

He  was  presented  to  Madame  de  Graffigny  by  her 

p  2 


niece,  Mademoiselle  de  Ligniville.  The  bright  and 
charming  Minette  naturally  did  not  find  it  at  all 
difficult  to  draw  Anne  Eobert  of  five-and-twenty 
from  the  intellectual  society  of  her  aunt's  salon  to 
a  game  of  battledore  and  shuttlecock  a  deux. 
Morellet,  watching  the  pair,  professed  himself 
pained  and  astonished  that  their  friendship  did  not 
end  as  nearly  all  such  friendships  do  and  should. 

Most  ol  Turgot's  biographers  have  sought  the 
reason  why  Mademoiselle  de  Ligniville  became 
Madame  Helvetius  and  not  Madame  Turgot — and 
have  not  found  it.  As  for  Turgot,  he  said 
nothing.  It  remains  idle  to  speculate  whether  he 
conceived  for  her  a  passion,  which  his  gaucherie 
and  shyness,  perhaps,  prevented  her  from  return- 
ing ;  or  whether  he  had  already  devoted  his  life 
to  his  public  duty,  and  thought  that  private 
happiness  would  be  deterrent  and  not  spur  to  his 
work  for  the  race.  An  unhappy  or  an  unrequited 
affection  is  one  of  the  finest  incentives  to  labour 
and  success  one  can  have.  It  may  be  that  Turgot 
had  it.  The  only  certain  facts  are  that  Minette 
married  Helvetius,  and  that  Turgot  remained  her 
life-long  friend. 

In  1754  he  made  the  acquaintance  of  Quesnay 
and  of  de  Gournay,  the  political  economists,  who 
influenced  not  a  little  his  life  and  thought.  He 
soon  began  writing  articles  for  the  Encyclopedia, 


though  he  never  joined  in  that  battle-cry  ol  the 
Encyclopasdists,  ^crasez  rinfdme,  and  was  wholly 
without  sympathy  for  the  atheism  of  d'Holbach 
and  the  materialism  of  Helvetius.  Turgot,  indeed, 
may  be  said  to  have  been,  in  the  broadest  accepta- 
tion of  the  term,  a  Christian ;  or  rather  he  would 
be  called,  and  call  himself,  a  Christian  to-day. 
But  his  Christianity  was  not  of  Eome  nor  yet  of 
Protestantism,  but  that  in  whose  honest  doubt 
there  lives  more  faith  than  in  half  the  creeds.  He 
certainly  gave  little  expression  to  it.  It  was  the 
religion  of  the  wise  man — which  he  never  tells. 

When  he  was  on  a  geologising  tour  in  Switzer- 
land, in  1760,  he  saw  the  great  Pontiff  of  the  Church 
of  Antichrist  at  Delices.  That  generous  old  person 
was  warm  in  delight  and  admiration  for  his  guest. 
D'Alembert  had  introduced  him,  and  d'Alem- 
bert's  friends  must  always  be  welcome.  And  then 
Turgot's  article  on  '  Existence '  in  the  Encyclopaedia 
had  made  even  more  impression  on  this  impres- 
sionable Voltaire  than  on  the  world  of  letters  in 
general.  He  took  this  young  disciple  to  his  heart 
at  once.  Well,  then,  if  he  is  not  precisely  a 
disciple,  he  is  at  least  a  most  'lovable  philo- 
sopher,' and  '  much  fitter  to  instruct  me  than  I 
am  to  instruct  him ! '  It  was  Voltaire  who  was 
dazzled  by  the  young  man's  splendid  possibilities, 
not  the  young  man  who  was  dazzled  by  Voltaire's 


matchless  fame  and  daring  genius.  Turgot  was 
never  dazzled ;  it  was  his  greatness,  if  it  was  also 
his  misfortune,  to  see  men  and  the  world  exactly 
as  they  are. 

In  1761  he  was  made  Intendant  of  Limoges. 
It  was  the  great  opportunity;  he  had  wanted 
practical  work — not  to  think,  to  write,  or  to 
dream.  Voltaire  wrote  of  him  afterwards  as  one 
'  qui  ne  chercha  le  vrai  que  pour  faire  le  bien.' 
He  wanted  to  Do ;  and  here  was  everything  to  be 

The  picture  of  provincial  France  before  the 
Ee volution  has  been  painted  often,  but  the  subject 
is  one  of  which  the  painter  can  never  tire  and  to 
which  he  can  never  do  justice. 

The  Limoges  which  Turgot  found  was  one  of 
the  most  beautiful  districts  of  France — and  one  of 
the  most  wretched.  Here,  on  the  one  side,  rose 
the  chateaux  of  the  great  absentee  noblemen,  who, 
always  at  Court,  left  behind  them  middlemen  to 
wring  from  the  poor  innumerable  dues,  with  which 
my  lord,  forsooth,  must  pay  his  debts  of  honour 
and  make  a  fine  figure  at  Versailles.  The  few 
nobles  who  did  live  on  their  country  estates  ex- 
pected their  new  young  Intendant  to  be  an  agree- 
able social  light,  as  his  predecessors  had  been, 
who  would  keep,  for  the  elite  of  the  neighbour- 
hood, an  open  house  where  one  would  naturally  find 


good  wine,  rich  fare,  and  delightful,  doubtful 

On  the  other  hand  were  the  clergy — often 
ignorant,  but  generally  cunning  enough  to  play 
on  the  deeper  ignorance  of  their  flock  by  threats 
of  the  Hereafter,  and  to  keep  from  them  that 
knowledge  which  is  the  death-blow  of  superstition. 

Then  there  were  the  poor.  Picture  a  peasantry 
whose  homes  were  windowless,  one-roomed  huts 
of  peat  or  clay;  who  subsisted,  in  times  of 
plenty,  on  roots,  chestnuts,  and  a  little  black 
bread;  who  had  neither  schools  nor  hospitals, 
teachers  nor  doctors ;  who  were  the  constant  prey 
of  pestilence  and  famine ;  whose  bodies  were  the 
possession  of  their  lords,  and  whose  dim  souls  were 
the  perquisites  of  the  priests.  Consider  that  these 
people  were  not  allowed  to  fence  such  miserable 
pieces  of  land  as  they  might  possess,  lest  they 
should  interfere  with  my  lord's  hunting;  nor  to 
manure  their  wretched  crops,  lest  they  should  spoil 
the  flavour  of  his  game ;  nor  to  weed  them,  lest 
they  should  disturb  his  partridges.  Consider  that, 
if  such  land  could  have  borne  any  fruit,  a  special 
permission  was  required  to  allow  its  owners  to 
build  a  shed  to  store  it  in.  Consider  that  their 
villages,  in  which  they  herded  like  beasts,  were 
separated  from  other  villages  by  roads  so  vile 
that  they  would  have  rendered  commerce  difficult. 


if  legal  trammels  had  not  made  it  impossible. 
Consider  that  these  people  had  been  scourged  for 
generations  by  hundreds  of  unjust  and  senseless 
laws,  made  by  and  for  the  benefit  of  their  op- 
pressors, and  that  they  were  now  the  victims  of 
taxes  whose  very  name  has  become  an  indictment, 
and  whose  description  is  a  justification  of  the 
French  Kevolution. 

On  the  one  flank  they  were  whipped  by  the 
taille — the  tax  on  the  income  and  property  of  the 
poor,  which  absorbed  one-half  of  the  net  products 
of  their  lands — and  on  the  other  by  the  corvee^ 
which  compelled  them  to  give  yearly  twelve  or 
fifteen  days'  unpaid  labour  on  the  roads  and  the 
use  of  a  horse  and  cart,  if  they  had  them.  The 
milice  demanded  from  each  parish  its  quota  of 
soldiers  (the  rich  being  exempt  as  usual),  and 
compelled  the  parishes  to  lodge  passing  detach- 
ments of  military  and  to  lend  cattle  to  draw  the 
military  equipages.  The  gahelle,  or  tax  on  salt, 
forced  each  poor  man  to  buy  seven  pounds  of  salt 
per  annum — whether,  as  in  one  province,  it  was 
a  halfpenny  a  pound,  or,  as  in  another,  it  was 
sixpence — and  let  the  noble,  the  priest,  and  the 
Government  official  go  free.  Toll-gates  were  so 
numerous  in  the  country  that  it  is  said  fish  brought 
from  Harfleur  to  Paris  paid  eleven  times  its  value 
on  the  journey.     Wine  was  taxed ;  corn  was  taxed. 


But  this  was  not  all.  If  these  taxes  were 
cruelly  unjust,  they  were  settled  and  regular. 
Irregular  taxes  could  be  levied  at  any  moment 
at  the  caprice  of  the  despot  at  Versailles,  who  no 
more  realised  the  condition  of  his  peasantry  than 
an  ordinary  Briton  realises  the  condition  of  a  tribe 
of  Hottentots.  One,  called  with  an  exquisite  irony 
the  Tax  of  the  Joyful  Accession,  had  been  raised 
when  Louis  the  Fifteenth  reached  the  throne  of 
France — to  topple  it  down  the  abyss.  Another 
was  the  vingtieme,  or  tax  on  the  twentieth  part  of 
a  franc,  which  could  be  doubled  or  trebled  at  the 
pleasure  of  the  Government. 

Apart  altogether  from  the  taxes,  the  peasantry 
were  subject  to  tithes  exacted  by  the  Church,  itself 
exempt  from  all  taxation,  to  large  fees  for  christen- 
ing and  marrying,  for  getting  out  of  the  misery  of 
this  world  and  avoiding  worse  misery  in  the  next. 

The  clergy  were  on  the  spot  to  exact  these  dues, 
just  as  the  middleman  was  on  the  spot  to  exact 
the  dues  for  the  nobles.  Some  of  these  dues  and 
seigneurial  rights  are  so  shameful  and  disgusting 
that  their  very  terms  are  unrepeatable.  Even  that 
vile  age  permitted  many  of  them  to  lapse  and 
become  a  dead  letter;  but  the  number,  and  the 
full  measure  of  the  iniquity  of  those  that  were 
insisted  on,  has  never  been  counted,  and  will  never 
be  known  until  the  Day  of  Judgment. 


What  effect  would  hundreds  of  years  of  such 
oppression  have  on  the  character  of  the  oppressed? 
Hopeless,  filthy,  degraded,  superstitious  with  the 
craven  superstition  which  made  them  the  easy 
prey  of  their  unscrupulous  clergy  and  left  them 
wholly  sensual  and  stupid;  as  animals,  without  the 
animals'  instinctive  joy  of  life  and  fearlessness  of 
the  morrow  ;  with  no  ambitions  for  themselves  or 
the  children  who  turned  to  curse  them  for  having 
brought  them  into  such  a  world ;  with  no  time  to 
dream  or  love,  no  time  for  the  tenderness  which 
makes  Hfe,  life  indeed — they  toiled  for  a  few  cruel 
years  because  they  feared  to  die,  and  died  because 
they  feared  to  live.  Such  were  the  people  Turgot 
was  sent  to  redeem. 

What  wonder  that  many  men  gave  up  such  a 
task  in  despair  ;  that  many  even  good  men  found 
it  easier  to  prophesy  a  Golden  Age  in  luxurious 
Paris  than  to  fight  hand  to  hand  against  the  awful 
odds  of  such  an  awful  reality  ?  Turgot  was  thirty- 
four  when  he  went  to  Limoges,  and  forty-seven 
when  he  left  it.  He  spent  there  the  most  vigorous 
years  of  his  life ;  if  he  did  not  do  there  his  most 
famous  work,  he  did  his  noblest. 

He  began  at  once.  It  was  nothing  to  him  that 
his  own  caste  shot  out  the  lip  and  scorned  him. 
Cold  and  awkward  in  manner,  regular  and  austere 
in  habit,  and  as  pure  as  a  good  woman,  of  course 


they  hated  him.  But  it  was  much  to  him  that 
the  clergy  who  ruled  the  people  were  also  his  foes, 
that  that  very  people  themselves  were  so  dull  and 
hopeless,  that  they  too  suspected  his  motives  and 
concluded  that  because  for  them  every  change 
had  always  been  for  the  worse,  every  change 
alwaj^s  would  be.  Slowly,  gradually,  he  gained 
the  favour  of  the  priest  and  the  love  of  the  flock. 
He  could  not  turn  their  hell  into  heaven :  he 
could  not  make  earth  at  all  what  Condorcet,  up- 
lifted in  noble  vision,  would  dream  it  yet  might 
be.     But  he  could  do  something. 

In  1765,  he  procured  for  Limoges  an  edict  re- 
storing free  trade  in  grain  in  that  province.  Ver- 
sailles, wholly  abandoned  to  its  amusements,  did 
not  in  the  least  care  whether  edicts  were  granted 
or  whether  they  were  revoked.  Turgot  did  care. 
He  perceived  that  the  Court  was  not  minded  to  be 
plagued  with  his  reforms ;  and  he  plagued  it  till 
it  gave  him  what  he  wanted — to  go  away. 

Then  he  turned  to  the  other  taxes.  The  exist- 
ence of  a  privileged  class  which  pays  nothing  and 
devours  much  by  its  shameful  exactions,  is  itself  a 
monstrous  thing.  Taille  is  the  crowning  iniquity ; 
but  it  will  take  a  Eeign  of  Terror  to  kill  it.  In  the 
meantime  Turgot,  in  the  teeth  of  the  besotted 
ignorance  and  opposition  of  the  wretched  beings 


he  was  trying  to  help,  could  and  did  see  that  it 
was  fairly  administered. 

In  place  of  the  personal  service  demanded  by 
the  corvee,  he  substituted  a  money- tax ;  which  was 
better  for  the  taxed  and  better  also  for  the  roads. 

With  regard  to  the  milice,  he  proposed  wide 
changes.  But  since  the  Government  would  not 
rouse  itself  to  act  on  the  proposals,  he  took 
advantage  of  its  self-indulgent  indifierence  and 
permitted  evasions  of  the  law ;  when  an  unlucky 
creature  drew  a  black  ticket  in  the  conscription 
in  Limoges,  the  new  Intendant  permitted  him  to 
find  a  substitute  or  to  pay  a  fee.  He  also  built 
barracks,  which  removed  the  necessity  for  quarter- 
ing the  soldiers  on  the  poor. 

The  fearful  trammels  which  '  crippled  trade  and 
industry  and  doomed  labour  to  sterility,'  he  in 
part  removed.  He  made  new  roads  ;  he  became 
President  of  the  first  Agricultural  Society  in  the 
district ;  he  founded  a  veterinary  college.  In  the 
teeth  of  strong  opposition  he  promoted  the  culti- 
vation of  the  potato;  and  by  having  it  served 
daily  at  his  own  table  proved  to  the  ignorance  of 
the  peasants  that  it  was  at  least  safe  for  human 
food.  He  also  introduced  the  growth  of  clover, 
and  entirely  suppressed  a  worrying  little  tax  on 
cattle.  He  first  brought  to  Limoges  a  properly 
quahfied   midwife,   who    taught    her  business  to 


other  women.  This  was  the  beginning  of  the 
Hospice  de  la  Maternite.  During  Turgot's  Inten- 
dancy  the  china  clay,  of  which  the  famous 
Limoges  pottery  was  afterwards  made,  was  dis- 

Besides  these  public  acts,  he  was  engaged  in 
hundreds  of  small  individual  charities.  Among 
others,  he  educated  at  his  own  expense  a  youth 
whose  father  had  been  entirely  ruined  by  taxation 
and  famine.  The  youth  was  Vergniaud,  after- 
wards the  stirring  orator  of  the  Ee volution. 

In  his  home-life  Turgot  remained  most  frugal 
and  laborious,  treating  his  servants  with  a  benevo- 
lence then  accounted  contemptible,  and  working 
out  his  quiet  schemes  with  an  infinite  patience  and 
thoroughness.  When  he  was  offered  the  richer 
Intendancy  of  Lyons,  he  would  not  take  it.  Here, 
as  he  said  of  himself,  though  he  was  '  the  com- 
pulsory instrument  of  great  evil,'  he  was  doing  a 
little  good.  Only  a  little,  it  might  be.  But  if  every 
man  did  the  little  he  could — what  a  different 
world ! 

In  1765,  he  paid  a  visit  to  Paris,  and  in  the 
Galas  case,  made  famous  by  Voltaire,  spoke  on  the 
side  of  tolerance  with  a  vehemence  unusual  to 
him.  Morellet,  d'Alembert,  and  Mademoiselle  de 
Lespinasse  were  still  his  friends.  Condorcet  was 
in  his  closest  intimacy,  and  destined  hereafter  to 


write  his  Life — '  one  of  the  wisest  and  noblest  of 
lives,'  says  John  Stuart  Mill,  '  delineated  by  one  of 
the  noblest  and  wisest  of  men.' 

In  Paris,  he  met  Adam  Smith,  the  political 
economist.  As  a  result  of  their  acquaintance 
Turgot  produced  in  the  next  year  his  '  Eeflections 
on  the  Eeformation  and  Distribution  of  Wealth,' 
fertile  in  conception,  arid  in  style,  and  anticipat- 
ing many  of  the  ideas  familiar  to  English  readers 
through  Adam  Smith's  '  Wealth  of  Nations.' 

But  the  insistent  claims  of  Limoges  on  his  time 
and  pity  narrowed  his  hours  for  study,  even  for 
the  study  that  would  serve  it  well.  In  1767  he 
cleared  the  province  of  wolves,  by  a  system  ana- 
logous to  that  by  which  Edgar  rid  Wales  of  the 
same  pest. 

Then,  in  1770,  Limoges  and  its  Intendant  began 
their  fight  with  want.  When  Turgot  came  to  the 
province,  the  wretched  place  was  a  million  francs 
in  arrears  for  its  taxes.  Some  he  had  certainly 
lessened.  The  work  he  had  started  was  just 
beginning  to  bear  its  first  little  harvest  of  good, 
when  there  came  the  withering  blast  of  the  two 
years'  famine.  Its  horrors  were  unthinkable. 
Turgot  wrote  to  Terrai,  the  Controller-General, 
that  it  was  impossible  to  extort  the  taxes  and  the 
arrears  without  ruin — ay,  and  with  ruin — to  the 
taxed.     The  people  could  not  only  not  pay  what 


was  demanded  of  them,  but  they  had  nothing 
to  sell  for  the  barren  necessities  of  their  own 
existence.  God  knows  they  had  learnt  by  long 
and  bitter  practice  to  subsist  on  little  enough ! 
But  now  they  must  surely  sit  down  and  die. 

Strong  and  calm,  Turgot  rose  up  again. 
From  the  Parliament  at  Bordeaux  he  obtained 
permission  to  levy  a  tax  on  the  rich  in  aid  of  the 
sufferers.  He  himself  opened  workshops  in  which 
he  gave  work,  and  paid  for  it,  not  in  coin,  which 
would  certainly  be  spent  at  the  nearest  cabaret, 
but  in  leather  tickets  which  could  be  exchanged 
for  food  at  the  cheap  provision  shops,  also  of  his 
own  institution. 

Far  beyond  his  age  in  every  practical  scheme 
for  the  benefit  of  mankind,  he  was  beyond  our 
own  age  in  that  he  clearly  perceived  that  the  free 
soup-kitchen,  and  all  the  sentimental  philanthropy 
which  gives  money  in  lieu  of  work,  instead  of 
paying  money  for  work,  must  be  demoralising, 
and  in  the  long  run  create  more  misery  than  it 
relieves.  '  Such  distributions,'  said  he,  '  have  the 
effect  of  accustoming  the  people  to  mendicity.' 
Even  through  a  famine  he  sent  to  prison  every 
beggar  he  could  lay  hands  on.  Then,  again  far 
beyond  his  age,  he  induced  the  ladies  of  the 
district  to  teach  the  poor  girls  needlework ;  and 
so  to  give  them  '  the  best  and  most  useful  kinds 


of  alms — the  means  to  earn.*  The  fight  was 
long  and  hard.  But  it  had  its  reward.  The 
people  came  to  love  him  who  had  helped  them 
to  help  themselves ;  who  had  given  them,  not  the 
bitter  bread  and  scornful  dole  of  charity,  but  the 
power  to  earn  a  livelihood  and  their  first  taste 
of  self-respect. 

On  May  10,  1774,  Louis  the  Sixteenth  suc- 
ceeded to  the  throne  of  sixty-six  kings ;  and  on 
July  20,  Turgot  was  made  Minister  of  Marine 
and  thus  called  to  wider  and  fuller  work.  The 
Limogian  peasants  clung  about  his  knees  with 
tears,  and  the  Limogian  nobles  rejoiced  openly  at 
his  departure.  The  one  leave-taking  was  as  great 
a  compliment  as  the  other. 

The  merits  of  this  '  virtuous  philosophic  Tur- 
got, with  a  whole  reformed  France  in  his  head,' 
had  not  been  in  the  least  the  reason  of  his  pro- 
motion. But  schoolfellow  Cice  had  whispered 
pleasant  things  of  him  to  Madame  Maurepas,  the 
wife  of  the  Minister ;  and  Madame  had  settled 
the  matter  with  her  husband,  who  was  a  lively 
shrewd  old  man  of  seventy-four,  not  inconve- 
nienced by  any  idea  of  duty,  and  with  a  very 
strong  sense  of  humour. 

Turgot  was  Minister  of  Marine  for  just  five 
weeks  ;  but  in  that  time  he  had  eighteen  months' 
arrears  of  wages  paid  to  a  gang  of  workmen  at 


Brest,  and  made  many  plans  for  the  improvement 
of  the  colonies,  which  more  than  twenty  years 
ago,  at  the  Sorbonne,  he  had  significantly  com- 
pared to  *  fruits  which  cling  to  the  parent  tree, 
only  until  they  are  ripe.'  On  August  24,  1774, 
he  was  made  Controller-General  of  Finances  in 
the  place  of  Terrai. 

It  sounded  a  fine  position,  but  was  it  ?  Limoges 
represented  all  France  in  little.  A  ruined  Treasury, 
a  starving  people,  in  high  places  corruption  and 
exaction,  and  in  low  places  misery  such  as  has 
rarely  been  seen  since  the  world  began. 

Terrai,  profligate  and  dissolute — '  What  does 
he  want  with  a  muff?'  said  witty  Mademoiselle 
Arnould  when  he  had  appeared  with  one  in 
winter  ;  '  his  hands  are  always  in  our  pockets ' — 
had  left  to  his  successor,  debt,  bankruptcy,  chaos. 
The  King  was  not  quite  twenty,  weak  with  the 
amiable  weakness  which  is  often  more  disastrous 
in  a  ruler  than  vice.  The  Queen  was  nineteen, 
careless  and  gay,  loving  pleasure  and  her  own 
way,  and  meaning  to  have  both  in  spite  of  all  the 
controllers  in  the  world.  Maurepas,  being  un- 
disturbed by  principles,  would  readily  abandon 
his  protege  if  he  perceived  for  himself  the  least 
danger  in  that  patronage.  Voltaire,  indeed,  wrote 
that  he  saw  in  Turgot's  appointment  a  new  heaven 
and  a  new  earth,  and  the  enlightened  among  the 



people  dreamt  that  the  Millennium  had  come,  but 
Voltaire  was  but  a  voice  crying  in  the  wilderness, 
and  in  the  councils  of  State  the  people  had  neither 
lot  nor  part. 

Once  again  Turgot,  realising  to  the  full  the 
difficulties,  the  impossibilities  even,  of  his  position, 
resolved  to  do  what  he  could.  Within  a  few 
hours  of  his  appointment  he  wrote  a  long  letter 
to  the  King,  urging  the  absolute  necessity  of 
economy  in  every  department,  denouncing  bribes, 
privileges,  exemptions,  and  pleading — daring  to 
plead — equality  in  the  imposition  of  taxes.  No 
bankruptcy,  no  increase  of  taxation,  no  loans — 
this  was  to  be  the  motto  of  his  Controller  ship. 
'  I  feel  all  the  perils  to  which  I  expose  myself,'  he 
wrote.  He  was  not  even  religious  in  the  sense — 
— what 'a  sense! — that  officials  were  expected  to 
be  religious.  'You  have  given  me  a  Controller 
who  never  goes  to  Mass,'  grumbled  Louis  to 
Maurepas.  '  Sire,'  answered  the  Minister,  very 
happily,  '  Terrai  always  went.' 

The  new  ControUership  was  still  a  nine  days' 
wonder  when  Turgot  restored  throughout  France 
what  he  had  restored  in  Limoges — free  trade  in 
grain.  In  1770  he  had  written  on  the  subject 
some  famous  '  Letters  '  in  answer  to  Terrai's  revo- 
cation of  the  edict  and  the  witty  '  Dialogues '  of 
GaHani  which  supported  that  revocation.     Then, 


bolder  still,  he  suppressed  an  abominable  piece 
of  official  jobbery,  the  Pot  de  Vin,  or  bribe  of 
100,000  crowns  which  the  Farmers-General  had 
always  presented  to  the  Controller  when  he  signed 
a  new  edict.  If  the  Farmers  turned  away  sulkily, 
angry  with  a  generosity  they  were  by  no  means 
prepared  to  imitate,  from  the  country  came  a  long 
burst  of  passionate  applause. 

'  It  is  only  M.  Turgot  and  I  who  love  the 
people,'  said  the  King.  Well,  this  poor  Louis  did 
love  them,  but  his  was  not  the  love  that  could 
stand  firm  by  the  man  sent  to  save  them.  '  Every- 
thing for  the  people,  nothing  by  them,'  was 
Turgot's  motto,  and,  perhaps,  his  mistake.  The 
King  was  to  be  the  lever  to  raise  his  kingdom ; 
and  the  weak  tool  broke  in  the  Minister's  hand. 

The  first  disaster  of  Turgot's  ControUership 
was  the  disaster  that  spoiled  his  Intendancy.  In 
1774-6  scarcity  of  bread  made  many  distrust 
his  edict  restoring  to  them  free  trade  in  grain. 
With  his  firm  hand  over  Louis's  shaking  one  he 
suppressed  the  bread  riots  of  that  winter,  as  it 
was  never  given  to  a  Bourbon  to  suppress  any- 
thing. But  he  would  not  in  justice  suppress, 
though  he  might  have  suppressed,  Necker's  adverse 
pamphlet  on  the  question,  called  '  The  Legisla- 
tion and  Commerce  of  Grain ; '  though  half  the 
Encyclopaedists,    and   many  of  Turgot's  personal 



friends,  were  led  thereby  to  adopt  the  opinions  of 
the  solid  Genevan  banker. 

In  the  January  of  1775,  Turgot  presented  his 
Budget.  The  deficit  left  by  Terrai  was  enormous. 
Let  us  pay  then,  said  Turgot's  sound  common- 
sense,  the  legitimate  contracts  of  Government, 
not  by  your  dear  old  remedy,  taxation,  for  the 
ruined  country  can  yield  no  more,  but  by  limit- 
in^^  the  expenses  of  that  Government  and  of  the 
Court.  Ofiicials  and  courtiers  alike  took  as  a 
judgment  from  Heaven  the  fact,  that  very  shortly 
after  this  monstrous  proposal,  the  audacious  pro- 
poser was  sharply  attacked  by  the  gout. 

Turgot's  ControUership  lasted  in  all  twenty 
months,  and  for  seven  of  them  he  was  very  ill. 
When  he  was  blamed  once  for  overworking  himself 
and  trying  to  force  everybody's  hand,  '  Why,  do 
you  not  know,'  he  answered  simply, '  in  my  family 
we  die  of  gout  at  fifty  ? '  His  present  illness  kept 
him  in  his  room  many  weeks,  but  did  not  prevent 
him  from  dictating  an  enormous  correspondence, 
and  trying  urgently  to  persuade  his  master  to 
begin  his  economical  reforms  by  having  his  coming 
coronation  ceremonies  performed  cheaply  at  Paris, 
instead  of  expensively  at  Eheims ;  and  to  make 
good  his  professions  of  tolerance  by  omitting  from 
the  service  the  oath  binding  him  to  extirpate 
heretics.     Of  course  Louis  was  too  weak  for  these 


drastic  measures;  he  characteristically  contented 
himself  by  mumbling  the  oath,  and  the  senseless 
expenses  of  the  coronation  were  as  large  as  ever. 

But  Turgot,  undaunted,  went  on  working.  In 
January  1776  he  presented  to  the  King  what  have 
been  justly  called  the  Six  Fatal  Edicts — the  first 
for  the  suppression  of  corvee,  four  for  the  suppres- 
sion of  the  offices  interfering  with  the  provision- 
ing of  Paris,  and  the  sixth  for  the  suppression  of 
jurandes  or  the  government  of  privileged  corpora- 
tions. The  first  and  sixth  were  the  real  cause  of 
battle,  and  embodied  one  of  the  great  aims  of 
Turgot's  administration — to  make  the  nobility  and 
clergy  contribute  to  the  taxes. 

A  shrill  outcry  of  indignation  rang  through 
Versailles.  Make  us  pay !  Us  I  The  Court  had 
always  scorned  Turgot  with  his  shy,  quiet  manner, 
his  gentle  aloofness,  and  the  reflection  cast,  in  the 
most  odious  taste,  by  the  purity  of  his  life  on  its 
own  manner  of  living.  But  now  it  hated  him. 
Tax  us !  Curtail  our  extravagances !  Eeduce 
our  expenditure!  What  next?  He  has  already 
abolished  a  number  of  our  very  best  sinecures  and 
lessened  the  salaries  attached  to  several  enticing 
little  offices  where  we  were  enormously  paid  for 
doing  nothing  gracefully !  He  has  given  posts  to 
persons  fitted  for  them  instead  of  to  our  noble  and 
incompetent  relations !    If  one  of  v>s  (even  when 


one  of  us  is  the  Due  d'Orleans  himself)  wants  to 
do  something— well— illegal,  he  will  not  allow  it ! 
As  though  the  makers  of  law  could  not  be  its 
breakers  if  they  chose !  And  Versailles  rustled 
indignantly  in  its  unpaid-for  silks,  whispered,  mur- 
mured, connived  at  the  fall  of  this  quiet,  strong 
person  who  had  not  a  thought  in  common  with 
them — nor  a  thought  of  himself. 

But  he  had  a  more  dangerous  enemy  than 
the  Court — the  Queen.  Quick-witted,  wilful,  im- 
petuous, with  a  husband  whose  slow,  hesitating 
intellect  she  must  needs  despise,  clever  enough  to 
love  to  meddle  with  great  things,  but  not  wise 
enough  to  meddle  well — ^Marie  Antoinette  took  her 
first  deep  step  down  the  stairway  of  ruin  when 
she  chose  to  be  Turgot's  enemy  instead  of  Turgot's 
friend.  Could  he  have  saved  her  too,  if  she  would 
have  let  him,  as,  but  for  her,  men  thought  he  might 
have  saved  France ?  God  knows.  Marie  Antoinette 
wanted  to  be  amused,  and  her  particular  amuse- 
ment, gambling,  was  very  expensive;  she  was 
infinitely  good-natured  and  impetuously  in  love  at 
the  moment  with  Madame  de  Lamballe,  and  wanted 
for  her  the  revival  of  the  old  post  of  Superintendent 
of  the  Household,  with  its  enormous  emoluments. 
And  at  her  side  stood  Turgot,  saying, '  No.'  Mau- 
repas  had  long  since  deserted  him.  It  was  much 
easier,  and  safer  for  one's  own  interest,  to  give  the 


Queen  what  she  wanted  and  have  done  with  it. 
As  for  Louis,  he  was,  as  usual,  weak  with  the 
weakness  that  brought  him  to  the  guillotine  and 
ended  the  French  monarchy. 

Turgot  so  far  controlled  him  that  the  six 
Edicts  were  registered  by  the  unwilling  Parliament 
of  Paris.  Then  Monsieur,  afterwards  Louis  the 
Eighteenth,  expressed  in  a  pamphlet  of  very  feeble 
wit  the  feelings  of  the  upper  classes  against  this 
terrible  reformer.  That  paltry  skit  had  already 
turned  the  King  against  his  Minister,  when 
Maurepas  showed  him  a  sharp  financial  criticism 
on  Turgot's  calculations  as  Controller-General, 
and  some  forged  letters  purporting  to  come  from 
Turgot  and  containing  expressions  offensive  to  the 
Eoyal  Family.  Not  man  enough  to  take  them 
to  Turgot  and  demand  explanation,  the  wretched 
King  went  on  distrusting  him  and  giving  him 
feeble  hints  to  resign. 

But  until  there  was  a  better  man  to  occupy 
his  place,  Turgot  would  take  no  hints.  For  the 
sake  of  France  he  would  push  those  Edicts 
through,  and  gain  his  principles  before  he  lost  his 

Then  another  friend  failed  him.  Malesherbes, 
the  brave  old  hero,  who  was  hereafter  to  defend 
and  to  die  for  his  King,  but  who,  as  Condorcet 
said,   found  on  every   subject    'many  fors   and 


againsts  but  never  one  to  make  him  decide/ 
resigned  his  post  in  Turgot's  government.  '  You 
are  fortunate,'  says  hapless  Louis  gloomily,  '  to  be 
able  to  resign.  I  wish  I  could.'  The  storm  was 
coming  up  fast.  But  the  first  man  on  whom  it 
was  to  fall  remained  calm  and  staunch. 

On  April  30,  1776,  Turgot  wrote  to  his  King 
a  note  begging  him  not  to  appoint  Amelot 
as  Malesherbes'  successor,  and  containing  these 
ominous  words  :  '  Do  not  forget,  Sire,  that  it  was 
weakness  that  brought  the  head  of  Charles  the  First 
to  the  block.'  Louis  made  no  answer.  Finally, 
the  match  was  put  to  the  tinder  of  the  Queen's 
wrath  by  Turgot's  dismissal  from  oflBce  of  her 
worthless  protege,  de  Guines ;  and  the  Minister, 
it  was  whispered,  had  also  declined  to  pay  a  debt 
she  had  incurred  for  jewellery,  as  against  the  new 
rules  he  had  himself  made.  Eules  for  a  Queen  ! 
This  must  certainly  be  the  end  of  Queens  or  of 
Ministers  !  In  this  case,  it  was  the  end  of  both ; 
only  Turgot's  fall  came  first. 

As  he  was  sitting  writing,  on  May  12,  1776, 
Bertin  arrived  to  announce  to  him  that  he  was  no 
longer  Controller-General.  He  had  been  drawing 
up  an  edict;  laying  down  his  pen  he  observed 
quietly,  'My  successor  will  finish  it.'  His  suc- 
cessor, it  has  been  well  said,  was  the  National 


Two  days  later,  Marie  Antoinette  wrote 
exultantly  to  her  mother  of  his  dismissal.  What 
did  she  care  for  the  just  reproaches  of  the  King 
and  of  the  whole  nation,  which  that  old  kill- 
joy, Mercy  Argenteau,  declared  that  this  deed 
would  bring  on  her  head  ?  She  would  have  liked 
her  enemy  turned  out  of  office  and  sent  to  the 
Bastille  the  very  day  that  de  Guines  was  made  a 
Duke.  Poor  Queen !  Her  little  triumph  was  so 
short,  and  her  bitter  punishment  so  long  ! 

On  May  18,  Turgot  took  farewell  of  his  master 
in  language  nobly  dignified  and  touching.  'My 
one  desire,'  he  said,  'is  that  you  may  find  I 
have  judged  wrongly,  that  I  have  warned  you  of 
imaginary  dangers.' 

Clugny  was  appointed  Controller-General ; 
corvee  and  jurandes  were  re-established ;  the  edict 
establishing  free  trade  in  grain  was  revoked.  The 
Court  rejoiced  aloud;  the  Paris  Parliament  was 
delighted.  Old  Voltaire  at  Ferney,  indeed,  wept 
and  said  that  this  was  death  before  death,  that  a 
thunderbolt  had  fallen  on  his  head  and  his  heart ; 
and  the  wise  knew  that  nothing  could  save  France 

Turgot  retired  quietly  into  private  life.  That 
he  was  disappointed,  not  for  himself,  but  for  his 
country,  is  very  true.  True,  too,  he  was  angered 
at   the  backstairs    policy  which    had   dismissed 


him.  But  far  beyond  this,  there  was  so  much  he 
could  have  done,  which  now  he  could  never  do ! 
Faithful  to  his  life-long  principle  of  gathering  up 
the  fragments  that  remain,  he  read  and  studied 
much,  corresponded  with  Hume  and  Adam  Smith, 
often  met  and  talked  with  Franklin,  went  to  see 
Voltaire  when  he  came  to  Paris  in  1778,  made 
experiments  in  chemistry  and  physics,  and  was 
active  in  private  benevolence. 

Was  the  brief  evening  of  his  life  solitary  ? 
The  one  human  affection  which,  in  its  perfection, 
makes  loneliness  impossible,  was  not  his  ;  or  at 
best  was  his  only  as  a  dream  or  a  memory.  But 
in  the  great  family  of  earth's  toiling  children  he 
must  have  known  there  were  many  to  love  and 
bless  him,  many  he  had  saved  from  wrong  or  from 
sorrow,  some  whom  he  had  made  from  beasts 
into  men.  Another  blessing  was  his— he  did 
not  long  survive  his  active  labours.  He  died 
March  21,  1781,  aged  fifty-four. 

A  failure,  this  life?  It  may  be  so;  but  a 
failure  beside  which  many  a  success  is  paltry. 

Turgot  could  not  save  France  from  her 
Eevolution,  but  he  gave  her,  and  all  countries, 
practical,  working  theories  on  government,  on  the 
liberty  of  the  press,  on  the  best  means  of  helping 
the  poor,  on  the  use  of  riches,  on  civil,  political, 
and  rehgious  liberty,  which  are  still  invaluable. 


He  has  been  justly  said  to  have  founded 
modern  political  economy  ;  to  have  bequeathed  to 
future  generations  *the  idea  of  the  freedom  of 
industry ; '  and  to  have  made  ready  the  way  for 
the  reforms  which  are  the  glory  of  our  own  day. 

Among  Voltaire's  fellow-workers  there  are  far 
more  dazzling  personalities.  But  from  their  fiery 
words,  exalted  visions,  and  too  glorious  hopes  one 
turns  with  a  certain  sense  of  relief  to  this  quiet, 
strong,  practical  man,  and  understands  why  the 
people,  whose  instinct  in  judging  the  character  of 
their  rulers  seldom  betrays  them  in  the  long  run, 
specially  acclaimed  Turgot  as  a  friend. 




Some  men  do  great  things  incidentally  and  un- 
intentionally. Pierre  Augustin  Caron  de  Beau- 
marchais  bothered  his  clever  head  scarcely  at  all 
with  schemes  for  the  well-being  of  his  country — 
was  Httle  concerned  with  humanity  and  very 
much  with  one  man — ^himself.  Yet  by  a  special 
irony  of  destiny  the  author  of  'The  Marriage 
of  Figaro'  played  one  of  the  chief  parts  in  the 
prelude  to  the  drama  of  the  Kevolution. 

Born  in  Paris  on  January  24,  1732,  the  son  of 
a  watchmaker  with  a  large  family,  Pierre  Augustin 
Caron  early  learnt  his  father's  trade,  picked  up 
a  little  Latin  at  a  technical  school  at  Alfort  and 
the  rest  of  his  education  from  experience  and  from 
the  world. 

A  lively,  impudent,  good-looking  boy,  young 
Caron  was  from  the  first  clever  with  that  smart 
cleverness  which  is  as  distinct  from  genius  or  from 
wisdom,  as  kindness  is  distinct   from   sympathy 

From  an  Engraving,  after  Michon,  in  the  Bibliotheaue  Nationals,  Paris. 


He  was  as  sharp  over  his  watchmaking  as  over 
everything  he  undertook  in  Hfe.  He  had  his  first 
lawsuit — the  first  of  so  many  ! — over  a  discovery 
he  made  in  his  trade,  and  won  it.  But  he  was 
young,  gay,  musical,  and  Parisian.  His  trade  was 
only  a  part  of  his  life.  There  were  debts  and 
escapades.  Then  the  watches  took  to  disappearing 
mysteriously  out  of  old  Caron's  shop  ;  and  finally 
old  Caron  turned  his  scapegrace  out  of  doors,  till 
the  mother  pleaded,  not  in  vain,  for  the  prodigal's 

Then  the  prodigal  made  the  loveliest  and 
smallest  of  watches  for  Madame  de  Pompadour's 
ring.  The  King  was  pleased  to  desire  one  also, 
and  the  King's  daughters,  Mesdames,  followed 
their  father's  example ;  while  the  courtiers  could 
not,  of  course,  be  out  of  the  fashion.  Pierre 
Caron,  tall,  handsome,  audacious,  was  presented 
at  Versailles,  and  made  watchmaker  to  his  Majesty. 
In  1755,  another  piece  of  luck  befell  him.  (This 
Caron  was  one  of  the  luckiest  of  human  beings  all 
through  his  life.) 

A  pretty  young  married  woman,  who  had 
noticed  him  admiringly  at  Versailles,  came  to  his 
shop  to  have  her  watch  mended.  Caron  took  it 
back  to  her  house  in  person.  A  few  months  later 
the  charming  person's  elderly  husband  sold  to 
Caron  his  post  at  Court,  and  on  November  9, 1755, 



a  patent  was  accorded  to  the  watchmaker's  son 
declaring  him  '  one  of  the  Clerk  Controllers  of  the 
Pantry  of  our  Household.'  An  agreeable  little 
post,  this  of  Pharaoh's  butler.  Nothing  to  do, 
only  be  sure  you  do  it  handsomely !  Caron, 
looking  exceedingly  eiFective  and  magnificent, 
preceded  the  King's  roast  with  a  sword  clanking 
at  his  side.  At  the  end  of  a  few  months  his 
predecessor  in  this  arduous  occupation  died,  and 
young  Caron  married  the  charming  widow,  Madame 
Francquet,  who  was  certainly  older  than  himself, 
but  not  the  less  agreeable  to  a  very  young  man 
for  that. 

His  marriage  could  not,  at  least,  have  been 
one  of  interest ;  or  he  was  so  far  disinterested  that 
he  neglected  to  complete  the  marriage  settlements, 
and  when  Madame  Caron  died,  in  ten  months' 
time,  Caron  found  himself  penniless.  She  had,  it 
is  said,  a  very  small  property,  but  it  was  apparently 
so  small  as  to  be  invisible,  for  no  one  has  ever 
discovered  its  whereabouts.  But  it  is  memorable 
as  having  suggested  to  Caron  the  name  by  which 
he  now  called  himself,  and  has  been  ever  since 
known — Beaumar  ch  ais . 

In  a  very  short  time  the  young  widower  (he 
was  only  twenty-five)  reappeared  at  Versailles, 
not  as  a  watchmaker  or  butler,  but  as  a  musician. 

All  the  social  talents  had  Caron — tact,  impu- 


dence,  a  witty  tongue,  a  delightful  voice,  added  to 
a  real  talent  for  the  harp,  which  was  the  fashion- 
able instrument  of  the  moment.  Mesdames  killed 
a  great  deal  of  the  too  ample  royal  leisure  with 
music ;  Madame  Adelaide  played  every  instrument 
down  to  the  horn  and  the  comb.  This  delightful 
young  parvenu  is  the  very  man  to  teach  us  the 
harp  !  He  not  only  did  that,  but  he  organised 
concerts,  of  which  he  was  himself  the  bright, 
particular  star. 

On  one  occasion  the  King  was  so  impatient 
for  him  to  begin  to  play,  that  he  pushed  towards 
him  his  own  armchair ;  while  on  another,  Mes- 
dames declined  the  present  of  a  fan  on  which 
the  painter  had  portrayed  their  concerts — with- 
out the  figure  of  Beaumarchais.  Of  course  the 
courtiers  were  jealous.  The  beautiful  insolence 
of  his  manners,  the  perfectly  good-natured  conceit 
(surely  one  of  the  most  exasperating  of  the  minor 
vices)  naturally  made  him  enemies.  One  scornful 
young  noble  handed  this  new  favourite,  this  royal 
instructor,  his  watch  to  look  at. 

'  Sir,'  says  Beaumarchais,  '  since  I  have  given 
up  my  trade  I  have  become  very  awkward  in  such 

'  Do  not  refuse  me,  I  beg.' 

Beaumarchais  takes  the  watch,  pretends  to 
examine  it,  and  drops  it.     '  Sir,'  says  he,  with  a 


bow  to  the  owner,  '  I  warned  you  of  my  clumsi- 
ness,' and,  turning  on  his  heel,  leaves  the  watch 
in  fragments  on  the  floor. 

The  new  courtier  was  at  least  a  match  for  the 
old  ones.  'I  was  born  to  be  a  courtier,'  says 
Figaro.  '  To  accept,  to  take,  and  to  ask ;  there 
is  the  secret  in  three  words.'  Figaro's  father  had 
the  secret  already.  Soon  he  made  friends  with 
Paris-Duverney,  financier  and  Court  banker, 
'  asked '  of  him  the  art  of  making  money,  and 
'received'  so  much  of  it  that  in  1761  he  could 
buy  himself  a  brevet  of  nobility.  He  would  have 
bought  also  the  post  of  Master  of  Woods  and 
Forests,  but  that  the  other  Masters  objected  so 
lustily  to  receiving  such  a  bourgeois  into  their 
order,  that  even  the  patronage  of  Mesdames,  and 
his  own  wit  displayed  in  an  amusing  pamphlet, 
could  not  gain  the  bourgeois  his  point.  So  he 
bought  the  post  of  Lieutenant-General  of  the 
King's  Preserves  instead,  and  in  that  capacity  sat 
solemnly  in  a  long  robe  once  a  week  in  judgment 
on  the  poachers  of  the  neighbourhood  of  Paris. 

In  1764,  he  made  a  journey  into  Spain,  where 
one  of  his  sisters,  who  had  married  a  Spaniard, 
was  living,  and  another  had  just  been  jilted  with 
a  peculiar  insolence  and  brutahty  by  a  man  called 
Clavijo.  Beaumarchais  brought  Clavijo  to  book  ; 
the  day  of  the  wedding  was  fixed,  when  the  shifty 


suitor  absconded  a  second  time.  Beaumarchais 
made  the  episode  famous  in  his  account  of  the 
affair,  which  appeared  in  his  Fourth  Memoir 
against  Goezman  in  February  1774,  and  which 
naturally  does  not  tend  to  the  discredit  of  M.  Pierre 
Augustin  Caron. 

Besides  protecting  his  sister  and  exposing  her 
betrayer,  this  energetic  person  was  carrying  out 
a  secret  mission  from  Duverney  and  recovering 
bad  debts  of  old  Caron's.  Then,  too,  he  was 
enormously  enjoying  Spanish  society,  and  writing 
love-letters  to  a  pretty  Creole,  Pauline,  whom  he 
had  left  in  Paris  and  whom  he  may  magnificently 
condescend  to  marry  if  her  estates  in  St.  Domingo 
really  turn  out  to  be  worth  consideration.  He 
was  further  corresponding  with  Voltaire,  and, 
richest  and  most  fruitful  of  all  his  Spanish  trans- 
actions, studying  the  Spanish  stage. 

He  came  home  in  1765.  After  his  return,  he 
appeared,  in  1767,  as  a  playwright,  making  his 
debut  in  one  of  those  heavy  and  tearful  dramas  in 
the  unfortunate  style  of  Diderot's  '  Natural  Son.' 
No  one  reads  or  acts  '  Eugenie  '  now  ;  but  when 
the  adaptable  Caron  had  shortened  and  altered  it, 
it  mildly  pleased  the  playgoing  Parisians  for  a  few 

In  1768,  Beaumarchais  married  another  widow, 
Madame  Leveque,  having  abandoned  Pauline,  or 



having  been  abandoned  by  her  on  the  score  of  his 
mercenariness.  Madame  Leveque  was  rich  and 
young,  and  when  she  suddenly  died  three  years 
later  there  were  not  wanting  envious  enemies  to 
accuse  this  aspiring  Caron  of  having  poisoned 
both  his  wives.  The  fact  that  their  deaths  left 
him  the  poorer  might  have  exonerated  him,  if  his 
own  character  did  not ;  but,  as  Voltaire  said — 
Voltaire,  who  was  watching  his  rise  in  the  world 
with  a  keen  interest,  and  who  rarely  made  a 
mistake  in  judging  human  nature — '  A  quick, 
impetuous,  passionate  man  like  Beaumarchais 
gives  a  wife  a  blow,  or  even  two  wives  two  blows, 
but  he  does  not  poison  them.' 

It  may  be  noted,  moreover,  that  all  the  women 
who  touched  his  life  adored  this  Caron.  He  was 
so  handsome  and  good-natured  and  successful !  A 
little  selfish  certainly ;  but  some  women  seem  to 
love  that  quality  in  a  man — it  gives  them  so  great 
a  scope  for  denying  themselves.  And  then  he 
was  always  so  brave  and  gay ! 

His  success  now  deserted  him  for  a  little  while. 
He  offended  the  King  by  suggesting  a  mot  with 
a  meaning — Figaro,  it  seems,  was  getting  apt  in 
them  already — which  a  duke  gave  forth  at  one  of 
the  little  suppers  of  Madame  Dubarry  and  which 
displeased  his  Majesty,  who,  to  be  sure,  had  reason 
to  dread  hidden  meanings. 


Then  came  the  afiair  Goezman. 

In  1770  Duverney  died,  and  Beaumarchais 
immediately  quarrelled  with  his  heir,  the  Comte 
de  la  Blache,  and  plunged  into  a  lawsuit  over  a 
sum  of  fifteen  thousand  francs.  Beaumarchais  won 
the  first  move  in  the  game.  But  unluckily  he  had 
more  than  one  iron  in  the  fire  just  then.  He  fell 
out  fiercely  with  the  Due  de  Chaulnes  over  a  Made- 
moiselle Mesnard,  with  the  result  that  the  Duke 
was  clapped  into  a  fortress,  and  Beaumarchais  into 
the  prison  of  For-l'Eveque.  La  Blache  seized  his 
opportunity,  brought  his  lawsuit  before  the  Parlia- 
ment of  Paris,  represented  dumb  and  imprisoned 
Beaumarchais  as  the  greatest  scoundrel  unhanged, 
won  his  cause,  seized  Beaumarchais'  furniture,  and 
entirely  ruined  him. 

Beaumarchais  seldom  lost  his  coolness  and 
courage,  and  he  did  not  lose  them  now.  While 
in  For-l'Eveque  he  had  been  let  out  on  leave  three 
or  four  times.  He  had  taken  these  chances  to 
try  to  win  over  to  his  side  Goezman,  who  was 
Judge-Eeporter  in  the  lawsuit  with  la  Blache,  and 
a  most  unfavourable  judge  to  Beaumarchais.  By 
the  simple  and  time-honoured  expedient  of  hand- 
some bribes  to  the  wife,  Beaumarchais  attempted 
to  gain  the  husband's  good  will.  Madame  Goez- 
man perfectly  understands  that,  should  Beau- 
marchais lose  his  cause,  she  is  to  return  his  gifts 

»  2 


of  a  watch  set  in  diamonds,  and  of  money.  The 
cause  is  lost.  She  returns  the  watch  and  money, 
save  only  a  certain  fifteen  louis,  to  which,  for 
some  absurd  raisonnement  defemme^  she  considers 
herself  entitled,  and  with  which  she  will  by  no 
means  part.  Then  Councillor  Goezman  comes 
forward  and  accuses  M.  de  Beaumarchais  of  seek- 
ing to  corrupt  his  integrity. 

This  ridiculous  situation  Beaumarchais  seized 
as  a  golden  opportunity  to  restore  his  credit  before 
the  world,  to  dazzle  it  with  his  wit,  to  entice  it 
with  his  audacity,  and  to  make  it  own  him  the 
man  of  matchless  cleverness  he  was.  He  appealed 
to  public  opinion,  nominally  to  judge  between 
himself  and  Goezman,  in  reality  to  judge  between 
him,  Goezman,  la  Blache,  the  Paris  Parliament, 
and  all  his  enemies  and  rivals  whomsoever,  in 
four  famous  Memoirs,  which  divided  Paris  into 
two  hostile  camps  and  fixed  on  him  the  delighted 
attention  of  Europe. 

Except  by  name,  and  for  a  brilliant  quotation 
here  and  there,  few  people  know  the  Goezman 
Memoirs  now.  But  in  fire,  wit,  and  irony,  they  are 
little,  if  at  all,  inferior  to  the  comedies  by  which 
Beaumarchais  lives.  In  both  are  the  same  gay 
surprises  of  situation,  banter  and  mockery,  parry 
and  thrust— every  page  as  light  and  elusive  as 
thistledown  borne  on  a  summer  breeze.     Their 


cleverness  gained  him  the  admiration  not  only  of  a 
senile  King,  but  of  Voltaire  as  well.  Old  Ferney 
declared  he  had  never  been  so  much  amused  in 
his  life.  '  What  a  man ! '  he  wrote  to  d'Alembert. 
'  He  has  all  the  qualities  ; '  and  again,  '  Don't  tell 
me  he  has  poisoned  his  wife,  he  is  much  too  lively 
and  amusing  for  that.' 

Madame  Dubarry  had  charades  acted  in  her 
apartment,  in  which  an  interview  between  Beau- 
marchais  and  Madame  Goezman  was  represented 
on  the  stage.  The  Memoirs  were  read  aloud  in 
the  cafes.  Of  the  Fourth,  six  thousand  copies  were 
sold  in  a  single  day.  Horace  Walpole  delighted 
in  them.  Madame  du  DeiFand  gossiped  of  them. 
Bernardin  de  Saint-Pierre  prophesied  for  Beaumar- 
chais  the  reputation  of  Moliere. 

What  did  it  avail  then,  on  February  26,  1774, 
when  the  case  had  lasted  some  three  years,  to 
give  judgment  against  him,  sentence  him  to  civic 
degradation,  prohibit  him  from  the  occupation  of 
any  public  function,  and  condemn  the  Memoirs  to 
be  burnt  as  scandalous,  libellous,  defamatory? 
He  was  the  victor  not  the  less.  '  Le  monde  a  beau 
parler,  il  faut  obeir,'  says  Voltaire.  The  day  after 
the  sentence  had  been  pronounced,  the  Prince  de 
Conti  and  the  Due  de  Chartres  feted  the  criminal, 
and  a  delightful  woman  fell  in  love  with  him. 
Marie  Antoinette  named  her  latest  coiffure  after  a 


joke  in  the  Memoirs.  He  was  so  wildly  applauded 
when  he  appeared  in  public  that  Sartine,  the 
Lieutenant  of  Police,  advised  him  to  appear  no 
more.  '  It  is  not  enough  to  be  condemned,'  says 
Sartine,  '  one  should  be  a  little  modest  still.'  The 
Maupeou  Parliament  in  attempting  to  destroy  this 
wit  had  ruined  itself.  Its  ban  was  worse  than 
useless.     Beaumarchais  was  the  fashion. 

The  King,  to  be  sure,  had  to  enjoin  silence 
on  this  'terrible  advocate,'  but  he  promised  him 
a  revision  of  his  suit;  and  then  employed  him, 
in  March,  1774,  as  his  secret  agent  in  England  to 
run  to  earth  a  person  who  had  threatened  to  publish 
a  scandalous  pamphlet  on  Madame  Dubarry. 
Beaumarchais  succeeded  in  his  mission.  He 
always  succeeded.  But  when  he  returned  to 
France,  Louis  the  Fifteenth  was  dying,  so  for  all 
his  pains  his  reward  was,  as  he  said,  '  swollen  legs 
and  an  empty  purse.' 

Soon,  however,  news  came  of  a  libel  against 
Marie  Antoinette  which  was  being  prepared  in 
London.  Off  starts  Beaumarchais  again,  pursues 
the  libeller  (a  shifty  Jew)  to  Nuremberg,  goes  on 
to  Vienna  to  procure  from  Maria  Theresa  an  extra- 
dition treaty  against  him,  is  himself  thrown  into 
prison  for  a  month,  and  then  liberated  with  pro- 
fusest  apologies  and  the  offer  of  a  thousand  ducats. 
All  his  adventures  were  delightfully  romantic  and 


picturesque ;  and  with  his  eye  for  scenic  effect,  he 
took  care  they  should  lose  nothing  in  the  telling. 

A  year  later,  in  1775,  he  came  to  England  on 
another  and  far  more  important  secret  mission  con- 
nected with  the  rebellion  of  the  American  colonies. 
It  was  the  one  enterprise  of  his  life,  it  is  said,  into 
which  he  put  more  heart  than  head.  He  attended 
parliamentary  debates,  and  was  constantly  at  the 
house  of  Wilkes.  '  All  sensible  people  in  England,' 
he  wrote  to  Louis  the  Sixteenth  in  September 
1775,  'are  convinced  that  the  English  colonies 
are  lost.'  He  advised  that,  while  France  siiould 
not  openly  embroil  herself  with  England,  she 
should  send  secret  aid  to  the  insurgents.  For  this 
purpose,  financed  by  his  country,  he  equipped 
for  war  three  ships — his  '  navy '  he  called  it — 
and  when  he  returned  to  Paris  he  traded  in  the 
American  interest  under  the  name  of  Eoderigue, 
Hortalez  &  Co. 

England  was  naturally  angry  when  she  found 
out  how  she  had  been  tricked,  and  America,  so  far 
as  money  acknowledgments  were  concerned,  was 
not  a  little  ungrateful.  But  the  clever  instrument, 
Beaumarchais,  came  out  of  the  affair  with  his 
usual  flourish  and  distinction,  and  would  have 
deserved  a  paragraph  in  history,  even  had  he  not 
earned  a  page  in  literature. 

On  February  23,  1775,  there  was  produced  at 


the  old  Comedie  Fran^aise  in  the  Eue  des  Fosses,. 
Saint-Germain  des  Pres,  opposite  the  famous  Cafe 
Procope,  a  play  called  '  The  Barber  of  Seville.' 

Accepted  by  the  Comedie  rran9aise  in  1772,  its 
first  performance,  fixed  for  Shrove  Tuesday  1773, 
lad  been  stopped  by  the  authorities  because  just 
t  that  moment  its  author  was  unluckily  serving 
term  of  imprisonment  for  fighting  the  Due  de 
iiaulnes.     Before  the  next  date  fixed  for  its  debut, 
had  been  condemned  by  the  Maupeou  Parlia- 
*■   for   the   afiair  with   la  Blache.     The   third 
pt  was  no  luckier.   The  irrepressible  creature 
ju§^t  published  the  Fourth  Goezman  Memoir  ! 
_  Vtd  now,  when   the  performance   really  did 
c©Tf:K8iofF,  it  was  a  failure.     La  Harpe   declared 
i^fnU  IL  inordinate  length  bored   people,  its  bad 
j  ^,    >  irritated  them,  and  its  false  morality  shocked 
them.     The  parterre  was  loudly  and  vulgarly  dis- 
gusted, and  the  boxes  yawned  behind  their  fans. 
By  Beaumarchais  ?    He  was  but  mediocre  before, 
we  remember,  in '  Eugenie.'   Watchmaker,  courtier, 
advocate,  secret  agent,  this — but  clearly  no  play- 
wright ! 

In  twenty-four  hours  Caron  had  laid  violent 
hands  on  his  'Barber,'  shortened  him,  enlivened 
him,  cut  out  his  distasteful  jokes  and  his  dubious 
moralities,  and  'under  the  pressure  of  a  discon- 
tented and  disappointed  public '  turned  him  into 


a   masterpiece.     At   its   second   performance   the 
play  was  applauded  to  the  skies.     It  ran  through 
the  whole  winter  season.     It  delighted  its  author 
to   print   it  with   its    title-page    running:    'The 
Barber  of  Seville,  Comedy  in  Four  Acts,  repre- 
sented and  failed  at  the  Comedie  rran9aise.'     It'l 
drew  on  him  one  of  his  dear  lawsuits,  and  enabled^ 
him  to  place  the  rights  of  dramatists  over  their  '^•. 
works  on  a  new  and  firm  basis,  and  to  found  thiO 
first  Society  of  Dramatic  Authors.     Far  above  dW* 
it  led  the  way  to  '  Figaro.'  Jne  -^ 

The  subject  of  '  The  Barber  of  Seville '  is^' 
time-honoured  one  of  the  amorous  old  guard}    ^^i 
who    falls  in  love  with  his  ward;    only  BeUti- 
marchais'  guardian  is  a  wit,  not  a  fool.     It  * 
defect,  indeed,  of  both  his  great  plays  that 
characters  are  wits.     He  fell  into  Sheridan's  fa 
and  made  his  personce  the  mouthpieces  of  his  own 
cleverness.     He  wholly  lacked  the  far  higher  and 
finer   genius,   the    exquisite  fidelity  to    life   and 
character,  which  made  Shakespeare  give  to  each 
of  his  creatures  the  special  kind  of  cleverness,  and 
no  other,  proper  to  its  nature. 

Not  the  less,  Beaumarchais  writes  with  a  light- 
ness and  efiervescence  which  are  without  counter- 
part in  dramatic  literature.  '  The  Barber  of  Seville ' 
was  taken,  it  is  said,  from  an  opera  of  Sedaine's, 
and  was  itself  originally  designed  to  be  a  comic 


opera.  Nothing  but  a  quarrel  with  the  composer  of 
the  score  prevented  it  from  first  appearing  in  that 
form  in  which  it  is  to-day  most  familiar  to  the 

Yet  it  hardly  needs  an  accompaniment  of 
lively  music.  The  airs  and  the  singing  are  there 
already — in  the  gay  bizarrerie  of  situation,  the 
laughing  swing  of  repartee,  and  the  brilliant 
recitative  of  the  longer  speeches.  The  characters, 
called  by  Spanish  names  and  dressed  in  Spanish 
clothes,  are  thoroughly  and  essentially  French. 
Its  exquisite  delicacy  of  touch  and  its  rippling 
mocking  gaiety  declare  it,  in  fact,  not  only  the 
work  of  a  Frenchman,  but  one  of  the  most  Gallic 
pieces  that  have  ever  held  the  stage.  It  inaugu- 
rated a  new  order  of  comedy,  and  introduced  into 
it  a  new  character :  the  Barber,  who  was  also  wit, 
hero,  and  moralist — the  character  of  Figaro. 

Beaumarchais  was  not  at  all  the  man  to  sit 
down  and  tranquilly  enjoy  his  first  dramatic 
triumph.  He  must  not  only  follow  it  up  by 
writing  another,  but  he  must  with  enormous 
difficulty,  at  the  risk  of  much  money,  and  three 
years'  hard  work,  become  the  editor  of  the  first 
complete  edition  of  Voltaire's  works  ever  given 
to  the  public. 

Then,  too,  he  must  prepare  the  reorganisa- 
tion  of    the    ferme  generate   with   the   Minister, 


Vergennes.  Actresses  consulted  him  when  they 
were  out  of  an  engagement,  and  dramatic  authors 
when  their  liberties  were  endangered.  The  author 
of  the  Goezman  Memoirs  can  surely  help  a  poor 
simpleton  engulfed  in  a  lawsuit,  and  the  friend 
of  Duverney,  the  rich  man  who  began  the  world 
in  a  tradesman's  shop,  may  well  assist  a  ruined 
speculator  !  Inventors,  impatient  to  air  their  dis- 
coveries, carried  them  to  him  who  had  brought 
his  first  legal  action  over  a  discovery  of  his 
own.  Girls  deceived  by  their  lovers  begged  the 
assistance  of  the  man  who  had  held  up  Clavijo  to 

One  of  the  most  fortunate  characteristics 
Beaumarchais  possessed  was  his  power  of  suddenly 
changing  his  occupation,  and  one  of  his  most 
extraordinary  characteristics  was  his  love  of  doing 
so.  '  Shutting  the  drawer  of  an  affair,'  he  himself 
called  this  faculty.  He  shut  the  drawer  with  a 
bang,  and  perfectly  good-natured,  self-conceited, 
and  successful,  turned  from  a  secret  agency  in 
London  to  interfere  with  the  marriage  of  the 
Prince  of  Nassau,  and  from  the  marriage  to  assist 
the  Lieutenant  of  the  Police  in  censuring  the 
works  of  his  brother-playwrights,  and  from  that 
censorship  to  put  into  the  mouth  of  Figaro  such 
sentiments  as,  '  Printed  follies  are  without  im- 
portance   except    in    those    places    where    their 


circulation  is  forbidden  .  .  .  without  the  liberty 
to  blame  no  praise  can  be  flattering.' 

By  1778,  'The  Marriage  of  Figaro'  was 
finished;  and  in  1781  it  was  received  by  the 
Comedie  Fran^aise.  But  it  contained  that  which 
no  censor — not  even  dull  Louis — could  pass.  In 
1782,  he  read  it,  and  flung  it  from  him.  'This 
is  detestable,  this  shall  never  be  played  ! ' 

But  that  prohibition  was  not  enough  for  Beau- 
marchais.  Forbidden  fruit  is  ever  the  most  tantalis- 
ing and  delicious.  Daintily  tied  with  pink  ribbons 
he  sent  a  copy  of  the  play  to  this  salon ;  and 
an-./ther  to  that.  He  announced  a  reading  of  it — 
and,  coquettishly  and  without  offering  any  reason, 
abandoned  the  reading  at  the  last  moment.  In  a 
little  while  he  had  raised  aU  Paris  on  the  tip-toe  of 
excitement.  Not  to  have  scanned  at  least  a  scene 
or  two  of '  The  Marriage  of  Figaro  '  was  to  confess 
oneself  out  of  the  fashion.  Then  the  author  read 
the  whole  of  it  to  the  Grand  Duke  of  Eussia,  and 
recited  selections  of  it  to  the  Comtesse  de  Lam- 
balle  and  to  Marshal  Kichelieu,  'before  bishops 
and  archbishops.' 

After  all,  Louis  was  very  weak,  and  public 
opinion  very  strong.  The  First  Gentleman  of  the 
Chamber  permitted  the  thing  to  be  rehearsed,  more 
or  less  publicly,  in  the  theatre  of  the  Hotel  des 
Menus    Plaisirs.     AU    the    world    and    his    wife 


crowded  thither.  The  Comte  d'Artois  was  actually 
on  his  way  when,  with  an  awakening  of  his  feeble 
obstinacy,  the  King  sent  a  mandate  forbidding  the 
performance.  Even  Madame  de  Campan,  kindly 
old  sycophant  of  the  Court,  confessed  that  there 
were  angry  whispers  of  '  tyranny '  and  '  oppres- 
sion,' and  murmurs  of  '  an  attack  on  liberty.' 
Beaumarchais,  stung  to  the  quick,  swore  that  it 
should  be  played,  ay,  even  if  it  was  in  the  choir  of 
Notre-Dame !  The  pressure  on  Louis  was  great ; 
the  Court  was  in  want  of  a  new  sensation,  and  to 
be  made  to  laugh  at  its  own  follies  was  a  very 
new  one  indeed. 

In  three  months,  the  Comte  de  Vaudreuil,  the 
leader  of  Marie  Antoinette's  societe  intime  of  the 
Little  Trianon,  obtained  the  royal  permission  to 
have  it  acted  in  his  house  at  Gennevilliers,  by  the 
company  from  the  Comedie,  before  the  Comte 
d'Artois  and  the  Queen's  bosom  friend,  the 
Duchesse  de  Polignac.  The  Queen  herself  in- 
tended to  have  been  present,  but  was  prevented 
by  an  indisposition.  When  the  permission  was 
accorded,  Beaumarchais  was  in  England.  He 
hurried  home,  saw  to  the  performance  himself, 
and  made  his  own  conditions. 

On  September  26,  1783,  three  hundred  per- 
sons, the  very  flower  of  Court  society,  crowded 
into  Vaudreuil's  theatre,  and  would  have  died  of 


suffocation  if  the  resourceful  Beaumarchais  had 
not  broken  the  panes  of  the  windows  with  his 
cane.  It  was  said  he  had  made  a  hit  in  two 
senses.  The  aristocratic  audience  received  his 
play  with  rapturous  applause.  He  adroitly  followed 
up  his  success  by  presenting  his  piece  to  a  tribunal 
of  censors  who,  for  some  unknown  reason,  'felt 
sure  it  would  be  a  failure,'  and  expressed  them- 
selves satisfied  with  it  after  they  had  made  a  few 
insignificant  omissions.  Finally,  a  reluctant  per- 
mission was  wrung  from  the  King,  and  on  April  27, 
1784,  seven  months  after  the  performance  at 
GenneviUiers,  '  The  Marriage  of  Figaro  '  was  first 
publicly  performed  at  the  new  Comedie  Fran9aise, 
built  on  the  site  of  the  Hotel  de  Conde,  and  now 
known  as  the  Odeon. 

The  play  was  to  begin  at  half-past  five  in  the 
afternoon,  but  from  early  in  the  morning  the  doors 
were  besieged  by  crowds,  in  which  cordons  Mens 
elbowed  Savoyards,  and  the  classes  and  the  masses 
began  their  long  struggle.  In  the  press  three 
persons  were  suffocated — 'one  more  than  for 
Scudery,'  said  caustic  La  Harpe.  Great  ladies  sat 
all  day  in  the  dressing  rooms  of  the  actresses  to 
be  sure  of  securing  seats,  and  duchesses  were 
delighted  to  obtain  a  footstool  in  the  gallery,  a 
part  of  the  house  to  which,  as  a  rule,  ladies  never 
went.     The  theatre  was   Ht  by  a  new   method. 


The  famous  Dazincourt  played  Figaro  ;  and  Mol^, 
Almaviva.  The  author  himself  was  in  a  private 
box  between  two  abbes  who  had  promised  to  ad- 
minister '  very  spiritual  succour  '  in  case  of  death. 
Then  the  curtain  rose. 

'  The  "  Marriage  of  Figaro," '  said  Napoleon, 
'  was  the  Eevolution  already  in  action.' 

As  in  the '  Barber  of  Seville,'  the  atmosphere  and 
the  clothes  are  Spanish,  the  spirit  and  essence  wholly 
French.  The  story  of  Figaro,  the  servant  who 
outwits  his  lord  and  wins  Suzanne,  whom  his  master 
has  tried  to  steal  from  him,  forms  a  plot  simple 
enough.  Count  Almaviva,  the  master,  is  certainly 
one  of  the  best  representations  of  the  great  noble  of 
the  old  regime  ever  put  on  the  stage.  Continually 
worsted  in  argument  by  his  valet,  and  perpetually 
in  the  most  ridiculous  situations,  he  never  loses 
the  dignity  of  good  breeding — as  Beaumarchais 
himself  puts  it,  '  the  corruption  of  his  heart  takes 
nothing  from  the  hon  ton  of  his  manners.'  Figaro 
is,  of  course,  democracy  with  its  wits  awake  at 
last,  and  stung  to  courage  and  action  by  centuries 
of  wrongs.  The  Countess  (the  Eosina  of  the 
'  Barber ')  and  Suzanne  are  the  most  charming  and 
seductive  reproductions  of  the  eighteenth-century 
woman — '  spirituelles  et  rieuses,'  coquettish,  grace- 
ful and  gay.  The  chief  fault  of  the  play  is  the 
episode  of  Marceline,  in  which  the  playgoer  wearily 


recognises  two,  too  familiar  friends — the  long-lost 
mother  and  the  mislaid  baby  with  the  usual 
convenient  birth-mark  on  the  right  arm. 

The  morals  of  the  piece  are   throughout  the 
morals    of   the    time — indelicacy,    delicately   ex- 
pressed.    Figaro  hardly  ever  says   anything  in- 
convenant,  but  intrigue    is    in  the  very  air   he 
breathes.  '  The  ripening  fruit,'  writes  Saint- Amand, 
'  hanging  on  the  tree,  never  falls  but  seems  always 
on  the  point  of  falling.'     Virtue,  of  a  kind,  does 
triumph  in  the  long  run,  but  Beaumarchais  knew 
his  audience  so  well  that  up  to  the  last  moment 
he  kept  them  fearing,  or  hoping,  that  it  would  not. 
If  its  unpleasant  situations,  and  the  character  of 
the  precocious    page   Cherubino   (a  particularly 
distasteful  one  to  English  ideas),  gave  spice  to  the 
wit  in  its  own  day,  the  modern  reader  can  enjoy 
the  sparkhng   and  rippling  stream   of  mocking 
gaiety  without  stirring  up  the  mud  it  hides.     One 
situation  leads  to  another  with  the  most  complete 
naturalness,  and  yet  that  other  is  always  perfectly 
unexpected.     Moralisings   and   soliloquies,  which 
spell  ruin  in  other  plays,  are  in  this  one  rich  in 
briUiancy  and  aptness.     Those  who  as  yet  know 
'The  Marriage  of  Figaro'   only  by  name,   can 
purchase  for  a  few  pence  one  of  the  most  ex- 
hilarating draughts  of  intellectual  champagne  ever 
given  to  the  world. 


But  it  is  not  only  as  literature  that  the  play- 
lives.  It  was  the  Eevolution  already  in  action. 
There  are  hardly  six  consecutive  lines  which  do 
not  contain  some  indictment  against  the  old  order ; 
there  is  not  an  aphorism  which  does  not  push, 
with  a  laugh,  some  abuse  down  the  abyss.  '  There 
is  one  thing  more  amazing  than  my  play,'  said 
Beaumarchais,  '  and  that  is  its  success.'  He  was 
right.  One  can  but  marvel  still  that  the  old  order, 
so  clearly  hearing  its  sentence  of  death,  took  that 
sentence  only  as  a  stupendous  joke,  '  laughed  its 
last  laugh'  over  'Figaro,'  and  applauded  the  war- 
rant for  its  own  execution  till  its  hands  tingled 

The  fine  ladies  heard  their  vapours  defined  as 
'  the  malady  that  prevails  only  in  boudoirs  ; '  and 
my  lord,  surrounded  by  sycophants,  saw  himself 
for  a  mocking  second  as  other  men  see  him,  when 
Figaro  says  to  Bazile :  'Are  you  a  Prince  to  be 
flattered?  Hear  the  truth,  wretch,  since  you 
have  not  the  money  to  pay  a  liar.' 

With  what  a  roar  of  laughter  that  tribunal 
of  censors  who  had  licensed  the  play  heard  the 
words  :  '  Provided  I  do  not  mention  in  my  writ- 
ings, authority,  religion,  poHtics,  morahty,  officials 
...  or  anyone  who  has  a  claim  to  anything,  I 
can  print  everything  freely  under  the  inspection 
of  two  or  three  censors ; '  and  with  what  amused 



self-complacency  it  listened  to  the  axiom :  '  Only 
little  minds  fear  little  writings.' 

The  hereditary  noble  hstened  to  this  :  '  Nobility, 
money,  rank,  place,  all  that  makes  people  so 
proud  !  What  have  you  done  for  so  much  good 
fortune?  You  have  given  yourself  the  trouble 
to  be  born ; '  and  the  bourgeois  at  his  side,  to 
whom  merit  had  opened  no  path  to  glory,  heard 
with  a  strange  thrill  Figaro  continue,  '  While  for 
me,  lost  in  a  crowd  of  nobodies,  I  have  had  need 
of  more  knowledge  and  calculation  simply  to  exist, 
than  has  been  employed  to  govern  all  the  Spains 
for  a  hundred  years.' 

Did  the  Minister  who  had  filled  the  snug 
posts  in  the  Government  with  his  own  relations 
and  friends  see  nothing  but  a  joke  in :  '  They 
thought  of  me  for  a  situation,  but  unluckily  I  was 
fit  for  it ;  they  wanted  an  accountant ;  a  dancer 
obtained  the  place'?  'Intelligence  a  help  to 
advancement  ?  Your  lordship  is  laughing  at  mine. 
Be  commonplace  and  cringing,  and  you  can  get 
anywhere.'  '  To  succeed  in  life,  le  savoir-faire  vaut 
mieux  que  le  savoir' 

The  ubiquitous  Englishman  of  the  audience 
heard  Figaro  announce  '  Goddam '  to  be  '  the  basis 
of  the  Enghsh  language.'  The  political  world 
listened  to  a  scathing  definition  of  diplomacy: 
'  To  pretend  to  be  ignorant  of  what  everyone  else 


knows,  and  to  know  what  everyone  else  does  not 

know  ...  to  seem  deep  when  one  is  only  empty 

and  hollow  ...  to  set  spies  and  pension  traitors 

...  to  break   seals    and    intercept    letters  .  .  . 

there's  diplomacy,  or  I'm  a  dead  man.' 

The  audience  trooped  out  into  the  night — the 

performance  lasted  from  half-past  five  till  ten — 

with  enthusiastic  admiration  on  its  lips  and  still 

ringing   in   its   ears   the   seventh   couplet  of  the 

vaudeville : 

Par  le  sort  de  la  naissance, 
L'un  est  roi,  Tautre  est  berger ; 
Le  hasard  fit  leur  distance ; 
L'esprit  seul  peut  tout  changer. 

The  writer,  certainly,  had  as  little  idea  as  his 
audience  that  his  was  to  be  the  wit  to  change 
everything.  From  first  to  last,  Beaumarchais  was 
the  man  we  have  always  with  us,  who  means  to 
advance  in  the  world  and  let  that  world  take  care 
of  itself;  whose  argument  is  that  posterity  having 
done  nothing  for  him,  he  need  do  nothing  for 
posterity;  the  true  time-server,  just  audacious 
enough  to  say  what  less  courageous  people  only 
dare  to  think,  and  earning  thereby  their  gratitude 
and  applause.  Caron  had  reaped  place  and  fortune 
from  the  old  order,  and  was  not  at  all  minded  to 
overthrow  it.  Tyranny  for  tyranny,  he  preferred 
the  despotism  of  the  King  to  the  despotism  of  the 
mob.     If  he  revenged  himself  in  his  play  for  the 

s  2 


slights  and  humiliations  from  which  even  his 
cleverness  had  not  been  able  to  save  him — that  was 
absolutely  all.  Overturn  Throne  and  Church! 
Such  a  houleversement  would  very  likely  overturn 
Caron  de  Beaumarchais  too,  and  was  not  to  be 
thought  of. 

Yet  it  was  this  man  who  gave  light  popular 
expression  to  the  principles  to  which  Voltaire 
and  his  friends  devoted  their  lives,  their  ardour, 
and  their  genius.  It  was  surely  a  cruelty  of  fate 
that  the  Master  could  not  live  to  see  'Figaro.' 
Its  author  might  miss  its  significance,  but  Voltaire 
— never. 

Beaumarchais,  indeed,  had  merely  caught  the 
accent  of  his  age,  as  a  child  catches  the  accent  of 
its  nurse,  and  '  wrote  revolutionary  literature,  as 
M.  Jourdain  spoke  prose,  without  knowing  it.'  In 
'The  Marriage  of  Figaro'  he  said  what  all  men 
were  feeling,  but  not  what  he  felt.  He  wished  to 
be  a  successful  playwright,  and  he  was  one ;  but 
he  did  not  mean  to  be  one  of  the  greatest  and 
most  inflijlential  of  Eevolutionists — and  he  was 
that  too. 

of  Figarc 

owed  up  the  success  of  '  The  Marriage 
'  by  generously  founding  a  fashionable 
o  be  known  later  as  the  Benevolent 
Institution,  and  the  King  followed  up 

the  succps  he  had  always  disHked  by  punishing 



an  imprudent  letter  Caron  had  written  in  a  news- 
paper, and  which  had  offended  Monsieur,  by 
writing  on  a  playing  card,  as  he  sat  at  his  game, 
an  order  for  Beaumarchais'  imprisonment. 

By  one  of  those  charming  little  surprises  for 
which  the  old  regime  was  so  celebrated,  Beau- 
marchais,  of  fifty-three,  found  himself  locked  up  in 
St.  Lazare,  then  a  house  of  correction  for  juvenile 
offenders.  At  first  Paris  went  into  roars  of 
laughter,  and  then  she  became  very  angry  indeed. 
In  a  few  days  she  obtained  the  release  of  her 
playwright ;  and  Louis,  with  the  inconceivable  in- 
consistency that  distinguished  his  career,  not  only 
gave  him  enormous  monetary  compensation,  but 
permitted  as  a  further  reparation,  '  The  Barber  of 
Seville '  to  be  played  at  the  Little  Trianon. 

That  representation  marked  the  crowning 
point  of  Beaumarchais'  success.  Dazincourt 
trained  the  company  of  royal  and  noble  amateurs. 
Marie  Antoinette  was  rehearsing  the  part  of 
Eosina  with  Madame  de  Campan  when  she  first 
heard  of  the  opening  of  a  grimmer  drama,  the 
scandal  of  the  Diamond  Necklace.  On  August  15, 
1785,  Cardinal  de  Kohan  was  arrested.  On  the 
19th,  'The  Barber  of  Seville'  was  played  in 
the  theatre  of  the  Little  Trianon,  with  lucky 
Beaumarchais  in  the  audience,  the  Queen  as 
Eosina,  the  Comte  de  Vaudreuil  as  Almaviva,  the 


Due  de  Guiche  as  Bartholo,  and  the  Comte  d'Artois 
as  Figaro. 

The  Queen  was  infinitely  vivacious  in  her  part. 
Did  Bazile's  terrible  definition  of  Calumny  dis- 
concert her  ? 

'  At  first  a  mere  breath,  skimming  the  ground 
like  a  swallow,  but  sowing  poison  as  it  flies  .  .  . 
it  takes  root,  creeps  up,  makes  its  way,  goes  .  .  . 
from  mouth  to  mouth :  then,  all  of  a  sudden,  one 
knows  not  how.  Calumny  is  standing  upright, 
rearing  its  head,  hissing,  swelling,  growing  visibly. 
It  spreads  its  wings,  takes  flight,  eddies  round 
.  .  .  bursts,  thunders,  crashes,  and  becomes, 
thanks  to  heaven,  a  general  outcry,  a  public 
crescendo,  a  universal  chorus  of  hatred  and 
proscription.     What  devil  could  resist  it  ?  ' 

If  Queen  or  audience  found  in  the  words  too 
awful  an  application  and  prophecy,  history  does 
not  relate. 

How  strange,  with  the  knowledge  of  after 
events,  sound  in  the  mouth  of  d'Artois  the  words  : 
'I  am  happy  to  be  forgotten,  being  sure  that  a 
great  man  does  enough  good  when  he  does  no 
harm.  As  to  the  virtues  one  requires  in  a 
servant,  does  your  Excellency  know  many  masters 
who  are  worthy  of  being  valets?'  and,  most 
strange  of  all,  '  I  hasten  to  laugh  at  everything, 
lest  I  should  have  to  weep  at  everything,' 


The  performance  of  the  '  Barber '  at  Trianon 
was  the  last  flicker  of  the  dying  fire  of  royal 
pleasure.  Beaumarchais'  own  light  began  to  fail. 
He  was  shortly  involved  in  a  famous  dispute  with 
Mirabeau  about  the  Paris  Water  Company,  in 
which  that  great  genius  brought  out  his  mighty 
guns  of  irony  and  invective  and  in  one  fierce  blast 
blew,  as  it  were,  Beaumarchais'  nimble-witted 
head  from  his  shoulders.  '  Figaro '  has  dubbed 
my  diatribes  '  Mirabelles,'  has  he  ?  Well,  he  shall 
pun  at  my  expense  no  more.  AU  Paris  stood 
watching.  Dazzling,  burning,  and  terrible,  Mira- 
beau's  sun  was  rising  above  the  horizon,  and 
Beaumarchais'  star  was  fading  in  the  stormy  sky. 
Then  he  had  another  lawsuit,  in  which  he  entered 
the  lists  as  the  champion  of  wronged  beauty. 
His  opponent  was  Bergasse,  the  young  lawyer, 
who  '  had  his  reputation  to  make '  at  some  one's 
expense,  and  made  it  at  Beaumarchais'. 

In  1786,  Caron  married  Mademoiselle  Willer- 
maula,  who  had  long  been  his  mistress,  and  by 
whom  he  had  a  daughter,  Eugenie.  For  them,  he 
built  a  splendid  house  looking  on  to  the  Bastille, 
near  the  Porte  Saint-Antoine,  which  became  one 
of  the  sights  of  Paris. 

In  1787,  he  produced  a  very  feeble  opera, 
'Tarare,'  which  had  a  small  temporary  success. 

On    July   14,   1789,  the    Bastille   fell.      Not 


only  the  fine  house  was  in  danger,  but  its  fine 
owner  as  well.  He  had  written  'Figaro'?  Yes. 
But  he  had  been  the  courtier  and  the  secret  agent 
of  kings.  His  pluck  and  energy  did  not  in  the 
least  desert  him.  In  the  midst  of  the  uproar  he 
was  writing  a  new  play,  '  The  Guilty  Mother.' 

La  Harpe  (no  wonder  his  friends  called  him 
La   Harpie)  declared   it   was  '  downright   silly ; ' 
and  perhaps  this   thorough-going  verdict  is  but 
little  too  severe.     '  The  Guilty  Mother '  forms  a 
sort  of  third  volume  to  the  '  Barber  '  and  '  Figaro,' 
and  falls  as  fiat  as  most  sequels.     The  same  cha- 
racters  appear,  grown   old.     The  Guilty  Mother 
is  the  Eosina  of  the  '  Barber '  and  the  Countess 
Almaviva    of    '  Figaro ; '    while    Cherubino    has 
grown  up  into  the  very  objectionable  young  man 
such  a  boy  would  grow  into.     Beaumarchais  had 
built   a  theatre — the    Theatre    du   Marais — near 
his  house,  in  which   he   proposed  his  new  piece 
should  appear. 

On  June  6,  1792,  the  day  before  it  was  to  be 
produced,  its  author  was  denounced  before  the 
National  Assembly  by  Chabot.  He  had  indeed, 
with  a  view  to  making  at  once  a  coup  for  his 
country  and  for  himself,  and  though  he  was  now 
sixty  years  old  and  getting  deaf,  undertaken  to 
bring  into  France  sixty  thousand  guns — '  to  mas- 
sacre patriots,'   shouted  unreasonable  patriotism. 


On  August  10  his  house  was  searched;  on 
August  23  he  was  taken  to  the  Abbaye  prison, 
and  on  August  30  he  was  freed  by  Manuel  (his 
brother  litterateur,  as  well  as  Procurator  of  the 
Commune),  just  two  days  before  the  September 
massacres.    After  all,  his  star  had  not  yet  declined. 

After  hiding  in  barns  and  roaming  'over 
harrowed  fields,  panting  for  his  life,'  he  escaped 
to  England,  where  very  luckily  for  himself  a 
London  merchant,  to  whom  he  was  in  debt,  pre- 
vented his  returning  to  Paris  and  the  guillotine 
by  shutting  him  up  in  the  King's  Bench  Prison. 
In  March,  1793,  he  did  return,  '  to  offer  my  head 
to  the  sword  of  justice,  if  I  cannot  prove  I  am 
a  good  citizen.'  That  he  did  not  thus  pay  for 
his  imprudence  proves  that  there  was  as  much  in 
that  head  as  had  ever  come  out  of  it. 

Three  months  later,  Beaumarchais  was  sent  as 
the  emissary  of  the  Eevolutionary  Government  to 
fetch  those  sixty  thousand  guns  which  had  been 
left  in  Holland.  He  had  many  highly  dramatic 
escapes  and  adventures  ;  and,  being  whoUy  modern 
in  his  belief  in  self-advertisement,  he  once  more 
made  the  most  of  them.  In  his  absence  the 
Government  which  had  sent  him,  by  one  of  those 
little  mistakes  which  make  its  history  so  vivacious, 
declared  him  an  emigre! 

During   the  Terror  he  was  at  Hamburg,  in 


direst  poverty  and  in  mortal  anxiety  as  to  the  fate 
of  his  wife,  his  daughter,  and  his  sister  Julie. 
They  escaped  with  their  lives ;  but  when  Beau- 
marchais  was  at  last  taken  off  the  list  of  emigres 
and  returned  to  Paris  in  1796,  he  found  house  and 
fortune  alike  in  ruins,  his  door  besieged  by 
creditors,  and  his  famous  garden  a  wilderness. 

He  was  sixty-four  years  old  and  had  already 
done  more  in  his  life  than  a  hundred  ordinary 
men  compress  into  a  hundred  ordinary  careers. 
And  now  he  must  start  afresh  ! 

He  saw  his  daughter  married  ;  revived  his  old 
social  tastes,  produced  '  The  Guilty  Mother,'  and 
took  the  keenest  interest,  both  in  prose  and  verse, 
in  that  young  Lieutenant  of  Artillery,  Kapoleon 
Bonaparte.  He  also  published  two  very  anti- 
Christian  letters  in  praise  of  Voltaire.  The 
watchmaker's  son,  who  had  charmed  Mesdames 
at  Versailles,  was  to  the  end  witty,  gay,  bold,  and 

On  the  morning  of  May  18,  1799,  his  friends 
found  him  dead  of  apoplexy.  To  die  in  his  bed 
at  last  was  surely  not  the  least  of  his  clevernesses. 

Caron  de  Beaumarchais  was  not  a  very  unusual 
type  of  character  or  even  of  intellect ;  but  in  the 
use  he  made  of  his  brains,  of  his  qualities  and  of 
his  circumstances,  he  was  a  man  in  a  million. 
His  marvellous  enterprise  and  industry   enabled 


him  to  build  more  than  one  successful  career 
on  very  ordinary  foundations.  His  luck,  that 
astonishing  luck  which  followed  him  from  the 
cradle  to  the  grave,  seems  to  have  prevented  such 
dangerous  qualities  as  his  conceit,  his  pugnacious- 
ness,  and  his  love  of  intrigue  and  speculation,  from 
bringing  their  usual  fatal  results.  Such  gifts  as  a 
handsome  face,  a  fine  figure,  a  '  parvenu  grandeur 
of  manner '  and  real  kindness  and  generosity,  he 
used  to  their  utmost  advantage.  For  himself  and 
his  contemporaries  he  was  a  brilliantly  successful 

For  posterity,  he  is  the  man  who,  with  a  single 
thrust,  pushed  open  that  door,  which  by  long 
labour  and  bitter  sacrifice  Voltaire  and  the  En- 
cyclopaedists had  unbarred,  upon  the  great 
Eevolution  and  the  Day. 




Voltaire  was  the  son  of  a  lawyer,  and  Diderot  the 
son  of  a  cutler  ;  d'Alembert  was  a  no-man's  child 
educated  in  a  tradesman's  family ;  Grimm  and 
Galiani  were  foreigners  in  the  country  to  which 
they  gave  their  talents.  Of  all  Voltaire's  fellow- 
ship only  Vauvenargues  and  Condorcet  came  from 
the  order  their  work  was  pledged  not  to  benefit  but 
to  destroy.  Condorcet  alone  lived  to  experience 
the  extreme  consequences  of  his  principles,  and 
paid  for  them  by  imprisonment  and  death.  The 
Aristocrat  who  lost  his  life  through  the  People  to 
whom  he  had  devoted  it — this  was  Jean  Antoine 
Nicolas  de  Caritat,  Marquis  de  Condorcet. 

Born  in  1743,  at  Eibemont,  a  town  in  Picardy, 
Condorcet  belonged  to  a  noble  family  highly  con- 
nected both  with  the  Church  and  the  Army. 

His  father  was  a  captain  of  cavalry  and  designed 
his  son  for  the  same  aristocratic  post.  But  he 
died  when  the  child  was  four;  and  a  devout 
mother  vowed  him  to  the  Virgin  and  au  blanCy 

From  an  Engraving  by  Lemort,  after  the  Bust  by  St.  Aubin. 

>.  OF 


dressed  him  in  white  frocks  like  a  little  girl,  so 
that  the  luckless  Caritat  could  neither  run  nor 
jump  as  nature  bade  him,  and  owed  to  his  mother's 
piety  a  weakness  in  his  limbs  from  which  he  never 

His  first  schoolmasters  were  the  Jesuits. 
What  is  one  to  make  of  the  fact  that  they  had 
as  virgin  soil  the  intellects  of  at  least  four  of 
their  mightiest  and  fiercest  opponents — Voltaire, 
Diderot,  Turgot,  and  Condorcet  ? 

At  eleven,  Caritat  was  under  their  supervision, 
with  his  home  influence  pressing  him  to  their  way 
of  thought,  with  an  uncle  a  bishop,  and  Cardinal 
de  Bernis  a  relative.  At  thirteen,  he  was  sent  to 
Eheims,  to  be  more  completely  under  their  control. 
At  fifteen,  he  came  up  to  Paris,  and  began  at  the 
College  of  Navarre  to  study  mathematics  and  to 
think  for  himself;  and  when  once  a  mind  has 
begun  to  do  that,  nothing  can  stop  it. 

His  treatment  of  a  particularly  difficult  theme 
brought  him  the  acquaintance  of  d'Alembert,  who 
first  saw  in  the  boy,  who  was  to  be  to  him  as  a 
son,  a  kindred  genius,  a  future  colleague  at  the 
Academy.  Caritat  was  only  seventeen  when  he  in- 
troduced himself  to  his  other  great  friend,  Turgot, 
writing  him  a  '  Letter  on  Justice  and  Virtue ' 
which  already  proclaimed  this  college  student  a 
thinker  of  a  high  order.    An '  Essay  on  the  Integral 


Calculus,'  which  he  presented  at  the  Academy  of 
Sciences  when  he  was  twenty-two,  attracted  to  him 
the  flattering  notice  of  the  famous  mathematician, 
Lagrange.  There  was  in  it  not  only  the  ardour 
of  youth  and  a  buoyant  fecundity  of  idea,  but  a 
profundity  of  learning  not  at  all  youthful. 

Caritat  was  now  no  longer  a  student,  but  still 
lodging  in  Paris.  In  1769,  when  he  was  twenty- 
six,  he  entered  the  Academy  of  Sciences  in 
opposition  to  the  wishes  of  all  his  relatives,  who 
never  pardoned  him,  he  said,  for  not  becoming 
a  captain  of  cavalry. 

The  man  who  ought,  by  the  solemn  unwritten 
laws  of  the  family  compact,  to  have  been  a  heavy 
dragoon,  was  soon  acknowledged  as  one  of  the 
finest  original  thinkers  of  his  age,  the  friend  of 
d'Alembert  and  of  Voltaire,  and  something  yet 
greater  than  a  thinker — greater  than  any  great 
man's  friend — a  practical  reformer  and  a  generous 
lover  of  human-kind. 

The  character  of  Condorcet — he  who  with 
Turgot  has  been  said  to  have  been  '  the  highest 
intellectual  and  moral  personality  of  his  century ' 
— has  in  it  much  not  only  infinitely  good,  but  also 
infinitely  attractive.  Perfectly  simple  and  modest, 
somewhat  shy  in  the  social  world  which  he  himself 
defined  as  'dissipation  without  pleasure,  vanity 
without  motive,  and  idleness  without  rest,'  among 


his  intimates  no  one  could  have  been  more  gay, 
witty,  and  natural.  Though  his  acquaintances 
might  find  him  cold,  his  friends  knew  well  what  a 
tender  and  generous  soul  shone  in  the  thoughtful 
eyes.  If  he  listened  to  a  tale  of  sorrow  coldly  and 
critically  almost,  while  others  were  commiserating 
the  unfortunate,  Condorcet  was  remedying  the  mis- 
fortune. Though  he  never  could  profess  affection, 
he  knew  better  than  any  man  how  to  prove  it ; 
and  if  all  his  principles  were  stern,  all  his  deeds 
were  gentle.  So  quiet  in  his  tastes  that  he  had 
no  use  for  riches,  wholly  without  the  arrogance 
and  the  blindness  which  distinguished  his  class, 
he  had  its  every  merit  and  not  one  of  its  faults  ; 
and  he  well  deserved  the  title  Voltaire  gave  him 
— '  The  man  of  the  old  chivalry  and  the  old 

In  1770,  when  he  was  twenty-seven,  he  went 
with  d'Alembert  to  stay  at  Ferney.  Voltaire  was 
delighted  with  him.  Here  was  a  man  after  his 
own  heart,  with  his  own  hatred  of  oppression 
and  fanaticism  and  his  own  zeal  for  humanity, 
with  better  chances  of  serving  it !  The  Patriarch 
did  not  add,  as  he  might  have  added,  that 
this  young  Condorcet  had  a  thousand  virtues 
a  Voltaire  could  never  compass — that  he  was 
pure  in  Hfe  and  hated  a  lie  ;  that  he  was  wholly 
without    jealousy,   without    vanity,   and   without 


meanness.  Caritat  soon  worshipped  at  the  feet  of 
a  master  of  whom  his  friendship  with  d'Alembert 
had  already  proclaimed  him  a  pupil,  while  Voltaire 
enlisted  his  guest's  quiet,  practical  help  for  the 
rehabilitation  of  the  Chevalier  de  la  Barre,  for 
the  revision  of  the  process  of  d'Etallonde;  and 
honoured  him  by  becoming  his  editor  and  assist- 
ant in  the  critical '  Commentary  on  Pascal '  which 
Condorcet  produced  later. 

Because  his  humility  was  the  humility  of  a  just 
mind  and  his  modesty  of  the  kind  that  scorns  to 
cringe,  Condorcet's  admiration  for  his  host  did  not 
blind  him  to  his  literary  faults  or  make  him  meanly 
spare   them ;   and  while   it   was   Condorcet   who 
spoke  in  warm  eulogy  of  his  '  dear  and  illustrious 
chief  as  working  not   for   his  glory  but  for  his 
cause,  it  was  also  Condorcet  who  deprecated  that 
production  of  Voltaire's  senility,  '  Irene.'     Some- 
times the  three  friends  would  talk  over  the  future 
of  France — the   two   older   men   who   had   done 
much  to  mould  that  future  and  the  young  man 
who  had  much  to  do.     '  You  will  see  great  days,' 
old  Voltaire  wrote  afterwards  to  his  guest ;  '  you 
will  make  them.' 

The  visit  lasted  a  fortnight,  and  was  a  liberal 
education  indeed. 

Three  years  later,  in  1773,  Condorcet  received 
the  crown  of  his  success  as  a  mathematician  and 


was  made  Perpetual  Secretary  of  the  Academy  of 
Sciences,  where  he  wrote  eloges  of  the  savants 
who  had  belonged  to  it,  with  the  noble  motto  for 
ever  in  his  mind,  'One  owes  to  the  dead  only 
what  is  useful  to  the  living — justice  and  truth.' 

So  far,  Condorcet  had  been  a  mathematician 
alone.  Knowledge  might  free  and  redeem  the  world 
— in  time  ;  but  the  time  was  long.  Beneath  that 
quiet  exterior,  palpitating  through  his  leisurely, 
exact  studies  at  the  College  of  Navarre  and  the 
Scientific  Academy,  there  throbbed  in  this  man's 
breast  a  vaster  and  fiercer  passion  than  any  passion 
for  learning — the  passion  for  human-kind.  Where 
did  young  Condorcet  come  by  that  ruling  idea  of 
his  that  opened  to  him  a  field  of  labour  which  he 
must  till  all  his  days,  unremittingly,  before  the 
night  Cometh  when  no  man  can  work — that  idea 
which  should  steel  him  to  endure,  exulting,  the 
cruellest  torments  of  life  and  death — '  the  infinite 
perfectibility  of  human  nature,  the  infinite  aug- 
mentation of  human  happiness '  ? 

The  friend  of  d'Alembert  was  Condorcet,  the 
geometrician ;  the  friend  of  Turgot  was  Condorcet, 
the  reformer. 

In  August,  1774,  Turgot  was  made  Controller- 
General.  He  appointed  Condorcet  his  Inspector 
of  Coinage  at  a  salary  of  240Z.  a  year,  a  payment 
which  Condorcet  never  accepted. 



Tlie  pair  had  work  to  do,  which  only  they 
could  do,  and  do  together.  The  vexed  subject 
of  Trade  in  Grain — '  for  a  moment,'  says  Eobinet, 
'  the  whole  question  of  the  Eevolution  lay  in  this 
question  of  Grain  ' — incited  them  to  fierce  battle 
for  what  they  took  to  be  the  cause  of  freedom 
against  the  cause  of  that  well-meaning  common- 
place, Necker.  Condorcet  attacked  Necker  with 
a  rare,  fierce  malignity,  and  wrote  two  sting- 
ing pamphlets  on  the  subject  which  made  him 
many  enemies. 

But  there  were  other  reforms  waiting  the 
doing,  less  in  importance  then  and  greater  in 
importance  now.  To  curtail  the  advantages  of 
the  privileged  classes,  to  open  for  commerce  the 
rivers  of  central  France,  to  abolish  the  slave  trade, 
Taille  and  Corvee^  Vingtieme  and  Gabelle,  and  to 
make  the  nobility  share  in  the  taxation — these 
were  the  tasks  into  which  this  noble  put  his  life 
and  his  soul.  That  every  reform  meant  loss  to 
himself,  that  all  his  interests  were  vested  in  the 
privileges  he  sought  to  destroy,  that  every  human 
tie  drew  him  towards  the  old  order,  makes  his 
work  for  the  new,  more  excellent  than  that  of 
his  fellow-workers.  They  had  nothing  to  gain ; 
Condorcet  had  everything  to  lose. 

In  May,  1776,  a  Queen  of  one-and-twenty 
demanded  that '  le  sieur  Turgot  fiit  chass^,  m^me 


envoye  k  la  Bastille ' ;  and,  in  part,  she  had  her 
way,  for  her  own  ruin  and  that  of  France.  Con- 
dorcet  renounced  his  Inspectorship  of  Coinage ;  he 
would  not  serve  ■  under  another  master.  Turgot's 
death  in  1781  was  the  first  great  sorrow  of  his 
life.  His  other  friend,  d'Alembert,  won  for  him  a 
seat  in  the  French  Academy  in  1782  ;  and  in  the 
next  year  he  too  died.  Condorcet  tended  him  to 
the  last,  with  that  quiet  and  generous  devotion 
which  says  little  and  does  much.  D'Alembert 
left  to  him  the  task  of  providing  annuities  for  two 
old  servants,  and  Condorcet  accepted  the  obhgation 
as  a  privilege,  and  fulfilled  it  scrupulously  in  his 
own  poverty  and  ruin. 

He  was  now  not  a  little  lonely.  His  relatives 
still  resented  his  choice  of  a  profession ;  his  best 
friends  were  dead  ;  the  great  Master  of  their  party 
had  preceded  them.  From  '  social  duties  falsely 
so  called  '  Caritat  had  long  ago  freed  himself.  He 
was  three  and  forty  years  old,  occupied  in  writing 
that '  Life  of  Turgot '  which  is  a  declaration  of  his 
own  principles  and  policy,  in  contributing  to  the 
Encyclopasdia,  and  in  many  public  labours,  when 
he  first  met  Mademoiselle  Sophie  de  Grouchy. 

If  the  supreme  blessing  of  life  be  a  happy 
marriage,  then  Condorcet  was  a  fortunate  man 
indeed.  Mademoiselle  was  full  twenty  years 
younger   than   himself,  very  girfish   in   face  and 

T  2 


figure,  with  a  bright  cultivated  mind,  and  a  rare 
capacity  for  love  and  tenderness.  He  found  in  her 
what  is  uncommon  even  in  happy  marriages  per- 
haps— his  wife  was  also  his  friend.  From  the  first 
she  shared  his  work  and  his  love  for  his  fellow-men, 
approved  of  his  sacrifices,  and  was  true  not  only 
to  him,  but  to  his  example  of  unselfish  courage 
and  unflinching  devotion,  to  the  end  of  her  life. 

For  the  moment — for  what  a  brief  moment ! 
^— their  world  looked  smiling  enough. 

Condorcet  abandoned  himself  to  his  happiness, 
with  the  deep  passion  of  a  strong  man  who  has 
never  wasted  his  heart  in  lighter  feelings.  For 
a  dowry — so  essential  to  a  French  marriage — he 
wholly  forgot  to  stipulate.  For  the  opinion  of  his 
friends,  who  considered  a  married  geometrician  as 
a  sort  of  freak  of  Nature,  he  cared  nothing  ;  and 
when  they  saw  his  wife,  and  forgave  him,  their 
pardon  was  as  little  to  him  as  their  blame. 

The  two  settled  on  the  Quai  de  Conti  in  a 
house  where  Caritat  had  previously  lived  with  his 
mother.  At  that  Hotel  des  Monnaies  Sophie  held 
her  salon  {le  foyer  de  la  Republique,  men  called  it), 
where  she  received,  with  a  youthful  charm  and 
grace,  not  only  her  husband's  French  political 
friends,  but  also  Lord  Stormont  the  English 
Ambassador,  Wilkes,  Garrick,  Sterne,  Hume, 
Eobertson,  Gibbon,  Mackintosh,  and  Adam  Smith. 


Large  and  shy,  with  a  little  awkwardness  even 
in  his  manner,  it  was  not  Condorcet  but  his  wife 
who  was  socially  successful.  She  was  the  one 
woman  in  a  thousand  who  estimated  social  success 
at  its  low,  just  value,  and  was  great  in  knowing 
her  husband  to  be  much  greater. 

Only  two  years  after  their  marriage,  in  1788, 
Condorcet  entered  the  arena  as  one  of  the  earliest 
and  most  noteworthy  of  all  champions  of  Women's 
Eights.  On  the  ground  of  their  equal  intelligence 
he  claimed  for  them  equal  privileges  with  men,  and 
ignored  the  very  suggestion  that  their  bodily  weak- 
ness and  inferiority  are  reproduced  in  their  minds. 
He  judged,  in  fact,  all  women  from  one  woman. 
No  nobler  testimony  can  be  borne  to  the  intellect 
and  character  of  the  Marquise  de  Condorcet  than 
to  say  that  she  deserved  as  an  individual  what  her 
example  made  her  husband  think  of  her  sex. 

It  is  not  a  little  curious  to  note  that  Condorcet, 
though  so  wholly  faithful  and  happy  himself  in 
the  relationship,  thought  the  indissolubility  of 
marriage  an  evil.  In  later  years,  he  pleaded 
warmly  for  the  condemnation  of  mercenary 
marriages  by  public  opinion,  as  one  of  the  best 
means  of  lessening  the  inequalities  of  wealth. 

In  1790,  the  profound  happiness  of  his  wedded 
life  was  crowned  by  the  birth  of  his  only  child, 
a  daughter.     Before  that,  the  fierce  whirlpool  of 


politics  had  drawn  him  into  it,  and  he  had 
addressed  the  electors  of  the  States-General  and 
appeared  publicly  as  the  enemy  of  sacerdotahsm 
and  aristocracy,  with  all  his  gospel  based  on  two 
great  principles — the  natural  rights  of  man  and 
the  mutable  nature  of  the  constitutions  which 
govern  him.  He  was  made  member  of  the  muni- 
cipality of  Paris,  and  in  that,  his  first  public 
function,  flung  the  gauntlet  before  his  caste  and 
broke  for  ever  with  an  order  of  which  the  smug 
selfishness  was  admirably  typified  by  a  Farmer- 
General  who  said  to  him,  'Why  alter  things? 
We  are  very  comfortable.' 

The  fall  of  the  Bastille,  the  insurrection  of 
October,  the  journey  of  the  Eoyal  Family  to  Paris, 
he  had  watched  with  the  calm  of  one  who  knows 
that  such  things  must  needs  be,  who  realises  the 
necessity  of  painful  means  to  a  glorious  end.  To 
the  monarchy  he  was  not  at  first  opposed.  If  the 
King  were  but  a  man  !  But  when  in  June,  1791, 
came  the  ignominious  flight  to  Varennes,  Con- 
dorcet  rose  in  a  fierce,  still  wrath  and  proclaimed 
the  necessity  for  a  EepubHc.  '  The  King  has  freed 
himself  from  us,  we  are  freed  from  him,'  said  he. 
'  This  flight  enfranchises  us  from  all  our  obligations.' 

Nearly  all  the  Marquis's  friends  broke  with  him, 
and  he  stood  alone.  Before  his  ripened  views  on 
royalty  were  fully  known,  it  had  been  proposed 


that  he  should  be  the  tutor  of  the  Dauphin,  and  to 
Sophie  that  she  should  be  the  gouvernante.  Hus- 
band and  wife  were  in  different  places  when  the 
proposals  were  made  ;  but,  though  they  had  never 
spoken  with  each  other  on  the  subject,  they 
declined  the  offers  almost  in  the  same  words.  If 
Condorcet's  friends  misunderstood  him  and  parted 
at  the  parting  of  the  ways,  his  wife  never  did. 

In  1791,  he  was  elected  member  for  Paris  in 
the  Legislative  Assembly  and  became  in  quick 
succession  its  Secretary  and  its  President.  As 
its  President,  he  presented  to  it  his  Educational 
Scheme,  startlingly  modern  in  its  demands  that 
education  should  be  free  and  unsectarian. 

By  the.  order  of  the  Assembly,  in  1792,  there 
was  burnt  in  Paris  an  immense  number  of  the 
brevets  and  patents  of  nobility — among  them  the 
patent  of  Jean  Antoine  Nicolas  de  Caritat,  Marquis 
de  Condorcet — at  the  very  moment  when  at  the 
bar  of  the  tribune  Condorcet  himself  demanded 
that  the  same  measure  should  be  adopted  all  over 
France.  Not  one  dissentient  voice  was  raised 
against  the  scheme;  who,  indeed,  should  dissent 
from  it  when  a  marquis  proposed  it  ?  A  few 
months  later  he  was  elected  Member  of  the 
National  Convention  for  the  Department  of  Aisne, 
and  the  extremist  of  the  Legislative  Assembly 
found  himself  all  too  moderate  for  the  Convention. 


Then  came  the  trial  of  the  King. 

There  was  never  a  time  when  Condorcet  could 
be  called  either  an  orator  or  a  leader  of  men. 
Though  he  had  written  most  of  its  official  addresses, 
he  had  appeared  but  little  before  the  Legislative 
Assembly.  Nervousness  caused  him  always  to 
read  any  speeches  he  did  make,  and  a  delicate 
voice  robbed  them  of  their  effectiveness.  His 
deeds  and  his  character  earned  him  a  hearing  and 
applause  ;  and  sometimes  his  complete  self-devotion 
and  the  white  heat  of  his  enthusiasm  discounted 
his  manner  and  touched  his  hearers  with  some- 
thing of  his  own  deathless  passion.  But  he  was, 
as  d'Alembert  said,  a  volcano  covered  with  snow, 
and  that  audience  of  his,  coarse  in  fibre,  mad  for 
excitement,  overwrought,  uncontrolled,  must  needs 
see  the  mountain  in  flames,  vomiting  lava  and 

To  be  a  great  orator  one  must  have  in  a 
supreme  degree  the  qualities  one's  hearers  have  in 
a  lesser  degree.  The  thoughtful  reason  and  the 
lofty  ideals  of  Condorcet  found  little  counterpart 
in  the  parliaments  of  the  Eevolution.  A  Marat 
or  a  Danton  for  us  !  Or  a  Fouquier-Tinville  even, 
drunk  with  blood,  with  his  wild  hair  flung  back, 
and  his  words  shaking  with  passion  ;  but  not  this 
noble,  with  the  high  courage  of  his  caste,  his 
'  stoical  Eoman  face,'   his   stern  truthfulness,  his 


unworldly  enthusiasms.  Worse  than  all,  Con- 
dorcet  never  was  for  a  cause,  but  always  for  a 
principle  ;  and  since  he  followed  no  party  blindly, 
he  was  in  turn  abused  by  all. 

He  proved  in  his  own  history  that  to  be  a  great 
demagogue  it  is  essential  to  be  without  too  fine  a 
scrupulousness  and  the  more  delicate  virtues  ;  that 
successfully  to  lead  the  vulgar  the  first  requisite  is 
not  to  be  too  much  of  a  gentleman. 

Condorcet,  although  he  had  broken  with 
monarchy  as  a  possible  form  of  government  for 
France,  had  still  no  personal  feeling  against  the 
monarch.  Firmly  convinced  of  his  culpability,  he 
was  equally  convinced  that  the  Convention  was 
not  legally  competent  to  judge  its  King  at  all ; 
and  proposed  that  he  should  be  tried  by  a  tribunal 
chosen  by  the  electors  of  the  Departments  of 
France.  But  to  take  the  judging  of  its  sovereign 
from  the  Convention  was  to  take  the  prey  whose 
blood  he  has  tasted  from  the  tiger.  When  the 
great  moment  came,  Condorcet  was  at  Auteuil ; 
he  hastened  to  Paris,  and  arrived  at  the  Assembly 
a  few  moments  before  the  King. 

What  a  strange  contrast  was  this  Marquis — 
serene  in  strong  purpose,  with  his  'just  mind  justly 
fixed,'  great  in  his  compassion  for  his  country  and 
not  without  compassion  for  his  King — to  that  poor 
Bourbon,   '  who    means   well  had  he   any  fixed 


meaning/  and  whom  Condorcet  himself  described 
in  an  admirable  but  rarely  quoted  description  as 
standing  before  his  judges,  '  uneasy,  rather  than 
frightened  ;  courageous,  but  without  dignity.' 

On  January  15,  1793,  to  the  momentous 
question  if  the  prisoner  at  the  bar  were  guilty, 
Condorcet  answered.  '  Yes : '  he  had  conspired 
against  liberty.  On  the  17th  and  18th  the  vote 
was  taken  on  the  nature  of  the  punishment  to  be 
awarded.  Consider  the  judgment-hall  filled  with 
the  fierce  faces  and  wild  natures  of  men  who,  for 
centuries  starved  of  their  liberties,  had  drunk  the 
first  maddening  draught  of  power.  Consider  that 
among  them  this  noble  alone  represented  a  class 
they  hated  worse  than  they  hated  royalty  itself, 
that  if  he  had  forsworn  it,  broken  with  it,  denied 
it,  he  had  still  its  high  bearing,  its  maddening  self- 
possession  and  self-control.  We  vote  for  death — 
shall  you  dare  to  know  better  ?  An  Orleans  sitteth 
and  speaketh  against  his  own  kin ;  why  not  a 
noble,  then,  who  owes  him  nothing  ?  Condorcet 
rises  in  his  place  and  pronounces  for  exile — the 
severest  penalty  in  the  penal  code  which  is  not 
death.  '  The  punishment  of  death  is  against  my 
principles,  and  I  shall  not  vote  for  it.  I  propose 
further  that  the  decision  of  the  Convention  shall 
be  ratified  by  an  appeal  to  the  people.' 

On  Saturday,  January  19,  1793,  the  execution 


of  the  King  having  been  fixed  for  the  Monday, 
Condorcet  implored  his  colleagues  to  neutralise 
the  fatal  eiSect  of  their  decision  on  the  other 
European  Powers  by  abolishing  the  punishment  of 
death  altogether.  With  the  Terror  then  struggling 
to  the  birth  in  her  wild  breast,  one  of  the  greatest 
children  of  his  country  begged  for  the  suppression 
of  that  penalty  as  the  most '  eflScacious  way  of  per- 
fecting human-kind  in  destroying  that  leaning  to 
ferocity  which  has  long  dishonoured  it.  Punish- 
ments which  admit  of  correction  and  repentance 
are  the  only  ones  fit  for  regenerated  humanity.' 

In  the  roar  of  that  fierce  storm  of  human 
passions,  the  quiet  voice  was  unheeded,  but  not 
unheard.  There  were  those  who  looked  up  at  the 
speaker,  and  remembered  his  words — for  his  ruin. 

How  far,  up  to  this  point,  Condorcet  realised 
his  danger  is  hard  to  say.  A  Louis,  with  the  fatal 
blindness  of  kingship,  might  believe  to  the  last 
that  his  person  really  was  inviolable,  that  from 
the  tumbril  itself  loyal  hands  would  deliver  his 
majesty  from  the  insult  of  a  malefactor's  death. 
But  a  Condorcet  ? 

The  immediate  result  of  his  part  in  the  King's 
trial  was  that  his  name  was  struck  from  the  roll  of 
the  Academies  of  St.  Petersburg  and  Berlin.  That 
insult  touched  him  so  little  that  there  is  not  a 
single  allusion  to  it  in  his  writings. 


In  the  month  succeeding  the  King's  death,  a 
Commission  of  nine  members  of  the  Convention, 
of  whom  Condorcet  was  one,  laid  before  it  their 
project  for  the  New  Constitution  of  the  Year  II., 
to  which  Condorcet  had  written  an  elaborate  Pre- 
face. The  project  was  not  taken.  Herault  de 
S^chelles  made  a  new  one.  In  his  bold  and  scath- 
ing criticism  upon  it — his  '  Appeal  to  the  French 
Citizens  on  the  Project  of  the  New  Constitution ' — 
Condorcet  signed  his  own  condemnation. 

On  July  8, 1793,  Chabot  denounced  that '  Appeal ' 
at  the  Convention.  This  ex-Marquis,  he  said,  is 
'  a  coward,  a  scoundrel,  and  an  Academician.'  '  He 
pretends  that  his  Constitution  is  better  than  yours  ; 
that  primary  assemblies  ought  to  be  accepted; 
therefore  I  propose  that  he  ought  to  be  arrested 
and  brought  to  the  bar.'  On  the  strength  of  this 
logical  reasoning  and  without  evidence  of  any 
kind  against  him,  the  Convention  decreed  that 
Condorcet's  papers  should  be  sealed  and  that  he 
should  be  put  under  arrest  and  on  the  list  of  those 
who  were  to  be  tried  before  the  Eevolutionary 
Tribunal  on  the  coming  third  of  October.  He 
was  further  condemned  in  his  absence  and  declared 
to  be  liors  la  loi. 

If  it  is  doubtful  whether  Condorcet  realised 
the  probable  effect  of  his  opinion  and  vote  in  the 
matter  of  the  King's  trial,  he  had  reahsed  to  the 


full  the  jeopardy  in  which  the  '  Appeal '  would 
place  him.  But  he  looked  now,  as  he  had  looked 
always,  not  to  the  effect  his  deeds  might  have  on 
his  own  destiny,  but  to  their  effect  on  the  destiny 
of  the  race.  If  the  unit  could  but  do  his  part  for 
the  mass,  then,  having  done  it,  he  must  be  content 
to  be  trampled  under  its  feet,  happy,  if  on  his 
dead  body  some  might  rise  and  catch  a  glimpse 
of  a  Promised  Land. 

But  yet  he  must  save  himself  if  he  could. 

For  seven  years,  through  storms  of  which  the 
story  still  shakes  men's  souls,  he  had  known  in  his 
own  home,  first  on  the  Quai  de  Conti  and  then  in 
the  Eue  de  Lille,  the  deep,  calm  joys  of  his  happy 
marriage.  When  the  troubles  of  life  come  only 
from  without,  through  the  fiercest  of  such  troubles 
man  and  wife  may  be  happy  still.  It  is  those  evils 
alone  which  rise  from  their  own  characters  which 
can  wholly  destroy  the  beauty  of  life.  In  the 
serene  tenderness  of  the  woman  who  kept  for  ever, 
it  is  said,  some  of  the  virgin  freshness  of  the  girl, 
who  united  to  strength  gentleness,  and  to  courage 
quietness,  who  was  at  once  modest  and  clever, 
simple  and  intelligent,  Condorcet  was  given  a  rich 
share  of  the  best  earth  has  to  offer. 

Their  salon,  of  course,  was  no  more.  The 
beating  of  the  pitiless  storm  had  driven  their 
Englishmen  to  covert  in  happier  England.     But 


it  is  only  when  one  is  discontented  with  one's  rela- 
tives that  there  is  crying  need  of  acquaintances. 
These  two  still  had  each  other  and  their  child. 
Condorcet  had  much  to  lose. 

To  go  to  the  Eue  de  Lille  would  be  courting 
death.  He  escaped  first  to  his  country  home  at 
Auteuil.  From  there,  two  friendly  doctors  took 
him  to  a  house  in  the  Eue  Servandoni,  belonging 
to  Madame  Yernet,  the  widow  of  the  sculptor,  and 
asked  her  to  shelter  a  proscribed  man.  She  only 
inquired  if  he  was  good  and  virtuous.  When 
they  answered,  'Yes,'  she  consented  at  once.  'Do 
not  lose  a  moment,  you  can  tell  me  about  him 
later.'  Eegarding  the  value  of  the  works  of  her 
husband  there  have  been  many  opinions,  but  as  to 
the  value  of  her  work  there  can  be  only  one. 
Perfectly  aware  that  she  was  endangering  her 
life  for  a  fugitive  whom  she  had  never  seen, 
and  who  had  not  the  slightest  claim  upon  her 
generosity,  she  sheltered  him  for  nine  months, 
providing  him  all  the  time  with  every  necessary  of 
life  and  without  the  smallest  hope  of  repayment. 
When  he  did  leave  her  at  last,  he  had  to  steal 
away  from  her  self-sacrificing  care  by  a  subter- 
fuge, like  a  thief.  Strong,  simple  and  energetic, 
high  in  courage  and  devotion,  Madame  Yernet  is 
one  of  the  unsung  heroines  of  history. 

Condorcet's   condition  was    destitute  indeed 


As  an  outkw  all  his  money  had  been  seized.  For 
himself  that  might  have  been  bearable ;  even  to 
the  fate  he  foresaw  too  clearly  he  could  be  in- 
different— for  himself.  One  Sarret,  to  whom 
Madame  Vernet  was  privately  married  and  who 
lived  in  the  house,  speaks  of  the  fugitive's  gentle- 
ness, patience,  and  resignation.  He  had  given  to 
his  country  his  talents,  his  time,  his  fortune,  his 
rank ;  and  when  she  turned  and  rent  him,  he  had 
for  her  nothing  but  compassion  and  the  strong 
hope  of  a  day  that  would  dawn  upon  her  clear 
and  fair,  after  the  storm  was  past. 

But  in  the  knowledge  that  he  had  brought 
ruin  and  disgrace  on  what  he  loved  best  in  the 
world,  Condorcet  sounded  one  of  the  great  deeps 
of  human  suffering.  As  the  wife  of  an  outlaw, 
Madame  de  Condorcet  was  not  only  penniless, 
but  could  not  even  sleep  in  the  capital.  Wholly 
dependent  on  her  was  her  little  girl  of  three 
years  old,  a  young  sister,  and  an  old  governess. 
She  was  herself  still  young  and  brought  up  in 
a  class  unused  to  work,  in  the  sense  of  work  to 
make  money,  for  generations.  But  there  was 
in  her  soul  the  great  courage  of  a  great  love. 
The  talents  which  had  once  charmed  her  salon 
she  now  turned  to  a  means  of  livelihood.  When 
her  house  at  Auteuil  was  invaded  by  Kepublican 
soldiers,  Madame  softened  their  hearts  and  earned 


a  pittance  by  taking  their  portraits.  Twice 
a  week,  disguised  as  a  peasant,  she  came  on 
foot  from  Auteuil  to  Paris,  passed  through  the 
gates  with  the  fierce  crowds  thronging  to  the 
executions  in  the  Place  de  la  Eevolution,  and  by 
painting  miniatures  of  the  condemned  in  the 
prisons,  of  proscribed  men  lying  hidden  in  strange 
retreats,  or  of  middle-class  citizens,  made  enough 
to  support  her  little  household.  Then,  sometimes, 
she  would  creep  to  the  Eue  Servandoni,  and  for  a 
few  minutes  forget  parting,  death,  and  the  terrors 
of  the  unknown  future,  in  her  husband's  arms.  He 
might  well  write,  as  he  did  write  but  a  little  while 
before  he  died,  that  even  then  he  was  not  all 
unhappy — he  had  served  his  country  and  had  had 
her  heart. 

He  spent  the  long  days  of  his  hiding  almost 
entirely  in  writing.  He  began  by  an  exposition 
of  his  principles  and  conduct  during  the  Revolu- 
tion, and  gave  an  account  of  his  whole  public 
career.  He  was  writing  it  when,  on  October  3, 
1793,  he  was  tried,  in  his  absence,  before  the 
Eevolutionary  Tribunal,  with  Vergniaud,  Brissot, 
and  others,  accused  of  conspiring  against  the 
unity  of  the  Eepublic,  declared  an  emigrant,  and 
condemned  to  death. 

On  the  31st  of  the  same  month  came  the  fall 
of  the  Girondins.     Though  not  himself  a  Girondin 


they  had  been  once  his  friends,  and  in  their  ruin 
he  saw  the  immediate  presage  of  his  own ;  and  his 
own  meant  that  also  of  Madame  Vernet.  He  went 
to  her  at  once.  '  The  law  is  clear ;  if  I  am  dis- 
covered here  you  will  die  as  I  shall.  I  am  hors  la 
hi ;  I  cannot  remain  here  longer.'  She  answered 
that  though  he  might  be  hors  la  hi  he  was  not 
outside  the  law  of  humanity ;  and  bade  him  stay 
where  he  was. 

His  wife,  in  her  peasant's  dress,  came  to  him 
then  for  one  of  those  brief  moments,  stolen  from 
Heaven.  She  knew  him  well.  That '  Justification ' 
of  his  conduct,  his  Apologia,  that  looking  back  on 
deeds  and  sacrifices  meant  to  bring  the  Golden 
Age  to  men  and  which  had  brought,  or  so  it 
seemed,  the  hell  of  the  Terror — this  was  no  fit 
work  for  him  now.  Look  ahead!  Look  on  to 
that  new  country  which  your  pure  patriotism  and 
your  self-devotion, — ay,  and  this  Terror  itself — 
shall  have  helped  to  make — that  warless  world  of 
equal  rights  and  ever  widening  knowledge,  the 
beautiful  dream  of  a  sinless  and  sorrowless  earth, 
which  may  yet  be  realised,  in  part. 

On  the  manuscript  of  the  '  Justification  '  there 
is  written  in  her  hand  '  Left  at  my  request  to  write 
the  History  of  the  Progress  of  the  Human  Mind' 

In  the  very  shadow  of  death,  Condorcet  told 
the  story  of  men's   advance   toward  life,  of  the 



evolution  of  their  understanding  from  the  earliest 
times  until  now.  Calm,  just,  and  serene,  with  not 
an  intemperate  line,  not  an  angry  thought,  the 
'  Progress '  reads  as  if  it  had  been  written  by  some 
tranquil  philosopher  who  had  seen  his  plan  for 
man's  redemption  adopted,  and  had  received  for  his 
labour  honours,  peace,  and  competence.  Its  fault, 
indeed,  is  its  too  sanguine  idealism.  Condorcet, 
like  many  enthusiasts,  thought  his  own  way  of 
salvation  for  man  the  only  way ;  he  believed  his 
own  magnificent  dream  to  be  the  only  possible 

Beneath  the  guillotine  and  in  social  convul- 
sions for  which  history  has  no  parallel,  he  looked 
through  and  past  them,  in  that  last  great  chapter, 
in  the  exalted  spirit  of  noble  prophecy,  to  that 
Golden  Age  which  must  surely  come ! 

But  'The  Progress  of  the  Human  Mind'  is 
something  more  than  a  splendid  hope,  more  than 
the  greatest  and  most  famous  of  its  author's  works. . 
It  bears  highest  testimony  to  the  character  of 
him  who  in  the  supreme  hour  of  his  individual 
life  could  thus  forget  himself,  and  in  the  midst 
of  personal  ruin,  foresee  with  exultant  joy  the 
salvation  of  the  race. 

It  remains  for  ever  among  the  masterpieces 
which  men  cannot  afford  to  forget. 

During  his  hiding  Condorcet  also  wrote  '  The 


Letter  of  Junius  to  William  Pitt'  in  which  he 
expresses  his  aversion  to  Pitt,  and  an  essay,  never 
printed,  'On  the  Physical  Degradation  of  the 
Eoyal  Kaces.'  He  also  planned  a  universal  philo- 
sophical language. 

In  December,  1793,  he  wrote  '  The  Letter  of  a 
Polish  Exile  in  Siberia  to  his  Wife ' — a  poem  in 
which  another  exile  bade  farewell  to  the  woman 
he  loved. 

The  death-shadows  were  creeping  closer  now. 

In  March,  1794,  he  finished  '  The  Progress  of 
the  Human  Mind.'  But  before  that  he  had 
decided  to  leave  Madame  Vernet ;  her  danger 
was  too  great.  Early  in  January  he  had  begun 
writing  his  last  wishes,  the  'Advice  of  a  Pro- 
scribed Father  to  his  Daughter.'  The  little  girl 
was  the  child  of  too  deep  a  love  not  to  be  in- 
finitely dear.  To  what  was  he  leaving  her? 
Throughout  these  cruel  months,  the  last  drop  in 
his  cup  of  bitterness  had  been  the  strong  con- 
viction that  his  wife  would  share  his  own  fate, 
was  doomed,  like  himself,  to  the  guillotine.  '  If 
my  daughter  is  destined  to  lose  everything,' — even 
to  himself  he  could  not  frame  the  dread  thought 
in  plainer  words.  But  if  even  that  thing  must  be, 
then  he  left  Madame  Vernet  the  guardian  of  his 
child,  begging  that  she  might  have  a  liberal 
education  which  would  help  her  to  earn  her  own 

u  2 


livelihood,  and,  in  particular,  that  she  might  learn 
English,  so  that  if  need  came  she  could  seek  the 
help  of  her  mother's  English  friends. 

To  the  little  girl  herself  he  left  words  of  calm 
and  beautiful  counsel,  which  are  in  themselves  a 
possession.  Some  of  that  'light  that  never  was 
on  sea  or  land'  lies  surely  on  those  tender  and 
gracious  lines,  something  of  the  serene  illumination 
that  shines  from  a  dying  face. 

In  the  early  morning  of  April  5,  1794,  the 
Marquis  de  Condorcet  laid  down  his  pen  for  the 
last  time. 

At  ten  o'clock  on  that  day  he  slipped  out  of 
the  house  in  the  Eue  Servandoni,  unknown  to 
Madame  Vernet,  and  in  spite  of  the  passionate 
protests  of  Sarret,  her  husband,  who  followed  him 
out  into  the  street,  praying  him  to  return.  Con- 
dorcet was  in  his  usual  disguise ;  many  months' 
confinement  indoors,  and  the  old  weakness  in 
his  limbs,  made  walking  a  difficulty.  He  was 
at  the  door  almost  of  the  fatal  prisons  of  the 
Carmes  and  the  Luxembourg ;  but  no  persuasions 
could  make  him  return.  He  had  heard  rumours 
of  a  domiciliary  visit  to  be  made  immediately  to 
Madame  Vernet's  house  and,  were  he  found  there, 
she  must  be  ruined.  Sarret  implored  in  vain. 
The  fugitive  reached  the  Maine  barrier  in  safety 
and  turned  in  the  direction  of  Fontenay-aux-Eoses. 


At  every  step  his  pain  and  difficulty  in  walking 
increased.  But  at  three  o'clock  in  the  afternoon 
he  safely  reached  the  country  house  of  his  old 
friends,  the  Suards. 

Madame  Suard  may  be  remembered  as  the 
very  enthusiastic  and  vivacious  little  lady  who  once 
visited  Voltaire,  who  has  left  behind  her  enter- 
taining '  Letters,'  and  who  has  recorded  Voltaire's 
warm  love  and  admiration  for  her  friend  Condorcet. 
'Our  dear  and  good  Condorcet,'  Madame  Suard 
had  called  him.  She  and  her  husband  (who  was 
a  well-known  journalist  and  wit)  had  been  his 
intimate  friends  in  prosperity;  how  could  he  do 
better  than  come  to  them  in  his  need  ? 

It  must  in  justice  be  said  of  the  Suards  that 
the  accounts  of  their  conduct  are  confused.  But 
the  generally  accepted,  as  well  as  the  most  pro- 
bable, story  does  not  redound  to  their  credit. 
True,  they  had  many  excuses ;  but  there  has  never 
been  any  act  of  treachery  for  which  the  treacherous 
have  not  been  able  to  adduce  a  plausible  reason. 

Condorcet  asked  for  one  night's  lodging,  and 
M.  Suard  replied  that  such  hospitality  would  be 
quite  as  dangerous  for  Condorcet  himself  as  for 
them.  Still,  they  could  give  him  money,  some 
ointment  for  a  chafed  leg  due  to  his  long  walk, 
and  a  copy  of  Horace — to  amuse  his  leisure ! 
Further,  we  will  not  lock  our  garden-gate  to-night 


so  that  in  case  of  urgent  need  you  can  make  use 
of  it !     With  this,  they  sent  him  away. 

Madame  Vernet,  searching  for  him  in  that 
neighbourhood  a  little  while  after,  declared  that 
she  tried  the  garden-gate  and  found  it  rusty  and 
immovable.  Her  own  door,  in  lawless  Paris,  was 
open  night  and  day  that,  if  he  should  return 
to  her,  she  should  not  fail  him.  Whether  he 
attempted  to  make  use  of  the  Suards'  timid 
hospitality  is  not  known.  One  would  think  of 
Condorcet  that  he  did  not. 

The  day  of  April  6  he  spent  in  sufferings  and 
privations  which  can  only  be  guessed. 

On  April  7,  a  tall  man,  gaunt  and  famished, 
with  a  wound  in  his  leg,  went  into  an  inn  of 
Clamart  and  asked  for  an  omelette.  Mine  host, 
looking  at  him  suspiciously,  inquired  how  many 
eggs  he  would  have  in  his  omelette.  The  Marquis, 
with  no  kind  of  idea  of  the  number  of  eggs  a 
working-man,  or  any  man  for  that  matter,  expects 
in  his  omelette,  said  a  dozen.  M.  Crepinet,  the 
innkeeper,  was  a  shrewd  person  as  well  as  one 
of  the  municipals  of  the  Commune.  A  queer 
workman  this  !  Your  name  ?  Peter  Simon,  was 
the  answer.  Papers  ?  I  have  none.  Occupation  ? 
Well,  on  the  spur  of  the  moment,  a  carpenter. 
His  hands,  whose  only  tool  had  been  a  pen,  gave 
him    the   lie.     Crepinet,   pleased  with    his    own 


sharpness,  had  this  strange  carpenter  arrested  and 
marched  toward  Bourg-la-Eeine. 

How  in  these  supreme  moments  Condorcet  felt 
and  acted,  is  not  on  record.  But  in  the  great 
crises  men  unconsciously  produce  that  character 
which  they  have  formed  in  the  trivial  round  of 
daily  life,  and  he  who  would  be  great  at  great 
moments  must  be  a  great  character  by  his  own 
fireside  and  in  the  dull  routine  of  his  ordinary 
work.  The  strong,  quiet  Condorcet  was  surely 
strong  and  quiet  still — '  the  victim  of  his  foes,'  as 
he  had  said,  '  but  never  their  instrument  or  their 
dupe.'  On  that  weary  way,  a  compassionate  vine- 
dresser took  pity  on  his  limping  condition,  and 
lent  him  a  horse. 

On  the  morning  of  April  8,  1794,  when  the 
jailor  of  the  prison  of  Boufg-la-Eeine  came  to  hand 
over  the  new  prisoner  to  the  gendarmes  who  had 
arrived  to  take  him  to  Paris,  the  Marquis  de 
Condorcet  was  found  dead  in  his  cell.  With  a 
powerful  preparation  of  opium  and  stramonium 
prepared  by  his  friend  Cabanis,  the  celebrated 
physician,  and  which  Condorcet  had  long  carried 
about  with  him  in  his  ring,  he  had  '  cheated  the 
guillotine.'  It  was  remembered  afterwards,  that 
when  he  left  the  Suards'  house,  he  had  turned 
saying,  '  If  I  have  one  night  before  me,  I  fear  no 
man  ;  but  I  will  not  be  taken  to  Paris.' 


That  he  who  gave  his  life  to  the  people  should 
have  defrauded  them,  as  it  were,  of  his  death, 
strikes  the  one  discord  in  the  clear  harmony  of 
this  true  soul. 

Better  that  a  Condorcet,  like  many  a  lesser 
man,  should  have  mounted  the  guillotine  as  a  king 
mounts  his  throne,  proud  to  die  for  the  cause  for 
which  he  had  lived,  and  hearing  through  the  blas- 
phemy and  the  execrations  of  the  rabble  below, 
the  far-off  music  of  a  free  and  happy  people. 

For  many  months  the  woman  who  loved  him 
had  no  news  of  his  death.  She  hoped  against 
hope  that  he  had  escaped,  and  was  in  safety  in 
Switzerland.  To  support  her  little  household  she 
took  a  fine-linen  shop  in  the  Kue  St.  Honore,  and 
in  the  entresol  set  up  her  little  studio  where  she 
continued  her  portrait-painting. 

In  January,  1794,  for  the  good  and  safety  of 
their  child,  she  had  heroically  petitioned  the 
municipality  for  a  divorce  from  her  husband,  and 
obtained  it — six  weeks  after  his  death.  When  the 
certain  news  of  that  death  reached  her,  both  her 
health  and  her  strong  heart  faltered.  But  Doctor 
Cabanis,  who  afterwards  married  her  young  sister, 
saved  her — for  further  effort  and  longer  work. 

Full  of  courage  and  resignation  she  rose  up 
again,  wrote  a  preface  to  'The  Progress  of  the 
Human  Mind,'  educated  her  child,  and  when  in  1795 


some  of  her  fortune  was  restored,  immediately 
began  paying  the  pensions  which  d'Alembert  had 
asked  Condorcet  to  give  his  old  servants. 

In  later  days  she  had  a  little  salon  in  Paris, 
saw  her  daughter  happily  married,  and  died  in 
1822.  In  every  stupendous  change  which  France 
experienced  between  the  fall  of  Eobespierre  and 
the  death  of  Napoleon  Bonaparte,  she  remained 
faithful  to  the  principles  to  which  her  husband 
had  devoted  his  genius  and  his  life. 

Through  all,  the  Marquise  de  Condorcet  had 
been,  and  had  counted  herself,  a  happy  woman. 
Wrung  with  such  sorrows  as  do  not  fall  to  the  lot 
of  many  of  her  sex,  she  had  had  a  blessing  which  is 
the  portion  of  far  fewer  of  them ;  she  had  inspired 
a  great  devotion,  and  had  been  worthy  of  it. 

To  Condorcet  is  meted  now  in  some  sort  the 
same  judgment  as  was  meted  to  him  in  life. 

Since  he  never  gave  himself  blindly  to  any 
one  faction,  all  factions  have  distrusted  and 
condemned  him.  To  the  Eoyalist  he  is  a  Eevolu- 
tionist ;  to  the  Eevolutionist  he  is  an  aristocrat. 
The  thinker  cannot  forgive  him  that  his  thought 
led  him  to  deeds  and  words ;  the  man  of  action 
cannot  forget  that  he  was  thinker  and  dreamer  to 
the  end.  While  the  Church  can  never  pardon 
his  persistent  hostility  to  theology,  his  vehement 
opposition  to  Eoman  Catholicism,  as  the  religion 


'  where  a  few  rogues  make  many  dupes,'  the 
unbeliever  is  impatient  with  his  serene  faith  in 
human  kind,  his  unshattered  trust  in  the  good- 
ness, not  of  God,  but  of  man. 

Far  in  advance  of  his  time — in  some  respects 
of  our  time  too — in  his  views  on  the  rights  of  men 
and  of  women,  on  the  education  of  children,  and 
in  his  steady  abhorrence  of  all  limitation  of  what 
Voltaire  called  '  the  noble  liberty  of  thinking,'  he 
is  still  condemned  for  an  unpractical  idealism,  and 
for  his  passionate  conviction  that  all  errors  are  the 
fruit  of  bad  laws. 

But  he  at  least  stands  out  clearly  to  any  im- 
partial observer  as  one  of  the  very  few  whose 
lofty  disinterestedness  came  un  scorched  through 
the  fire  of  the  Terror. 

In  private  life,  stern  to  duty  and  yet  tenderer 
than  any  woman  in  his  quiet,  deep  affections,  patient 
and  strong  with  the  fine  endurance  of  steel  and 
with  the  capacity  (that  capacity  which  is  as  rare 
as  genius)  for  the  highest  form  of  human  love, 
he  showed  a  great  character  beside  which  even  his 
great  intellect  seems  a  small  thing  and  a  mean. 

In  the  breadth  and  the  generosity  of  his  self- 
sacrifice  for  the  public  good,  he  remains  for  ever 
one  of  the  noblest,  not  only  of  the  Friends  of 
Voltaire,  but  of  the  sons  of  France. 


'Advance,  The,  of  the  Mind  of 
Man  '  (Turgot),  208 

♦  Advantages,  The,  of  Christianity ' 

(Turgot),  208 

'  Advice  of  a  Proscribed  Father, 
The '  (Condorcet),  291 

Aine,  Madame  d',  54,  123,  131, 
132,  136 

Alembert,  Jean  Lerond  d',  45,  47, 
72, 124-5, 133, 136, 199,  213, 269, 
271, 275 ;  birth  and  parentage,  2- 
4 ;  at  Madame  Kousseau's,  4-6 ; 
education,  6-8 ;  mathematical 
studies,  8-9  ;  publishes '  Treatise 
on  Dynamics '  and  •  Theory  of 
Winds,'  10 ;  death  of  his  mother, 
10;  acquaintance  with  Diderot, 
11 ;  writes '  Preface  '  to  Encyclo- 
psedia,  12-13 ;  offered  Presidency 
of  Berlin  Academy,  13-14; 
member  of  the  French  Academy, 
14 ;  visits  Voltaire,  15 ;  writes 
•  Geneva,'  15-16 ;  retires  from 
EncyclopaBdia,  16-17 ;  publishes 
'Elements  of  Philosophy,'  17; 
visits  Berlin,  18 ;  his  attach- 
ment to  Mile,  de  Lespinasse, 
18-23  ;  their  salon,  23-24 ;  pub- 
lishes  *  History  of  the  Destruc- 
tion of  the  Jesuits,'  25  ;  second 
visit  to  Voltaire,  25-26;  made 
Perpetual  Secretary  of  Academy, 
26 ;  illness  and  death  of  Mile, 
de  Lespinasse,  27-28 ;  his  un- 
happiness  and  death,  29-30 ; 
his  work  and  character,  30-31 

*  Appeal  to  the  French  Citizens ' 

(Condorcet),  284-5 
Argental,  Comte  d',  113 
Artois,  Comte  d',  253,  262 

'  Banise  '  (Grimm),  152 

♦Barber  of  Seville,   The'   (Beau- 

marchais),  247-50,  261-2 
Beaumarchais,  Caron  de,  birth  and 
early  life,  236-7  ;  first  marriage, 
238 ;  at  Court,  238-40  ;  visits 
Spain,  240-1 ;  produces  '  Eu- 
genie,' 241 ;  second  marriage, 
241-2;  the  Goezman  lawsuit 
and  'Memoirs,'  243-6;  acts  as 
secret  agent,  246-7 ;  produces 
'Barber  of  Seville,'  247-50; 
edits  Voltaire's  Works,  250 ; 
various  employments,  251 ;  ad- 
vertises '  Figaro,'  252 ;  produces 
it  at  Gennevilliers,  253-4 ;  and 
at  the  Com^die,  254-60;  im- 
prisoned in  St.  Lazare,  261 ;  sees 
'  Barber  of  Seville  '  at  Trianon, 
261-2  ;  quarrels  with  Mirabeau, 
263 ;  third  marriage,  263 ;  his 
part  in  the  Revolution,  263-6; 
produces  '  Guilty  Mother,'  266  ; 
death  and  character,  266-7 
Beaumarchais,     Madame     (Mme. 

Francquet),  237-8 
Beaumarchais,     Madame     (Mme. 

L6v6que)»  241-2 
Beaumarchais,     Madame     (Mile. 

Willermaula),  263,  266 
Beaumarchais,  Mademoiselle  Eu- 
genie, 263,  266 
Bergasse  (lawyer),  263 
Bernis,  Cardinal  de,  33,  269 
Blache,  Comte  de  la,  243,  244 
'  Blind,  Letter  on  the '  (Diderot), 

Brienne,Lom6nie  de,  208, 209, 210 
Bueil,  Comtesse  de,  172,  173, 174 
Buffon,  Comte  de,  127,  200 



Cabanis,  Doctor,  204,  295,  296 

Catherine  the  Great,  18,  56-8, 158, 
168-70, 171,  174 

Charles  Edward  Stuart,  Prince, 

Chatelet,  Madame  du,  42,  180 

Chaulnes,  Due  de,  243 

Choiseul,  Due  de,  69,  70,  73,  83 

'  Christianity  Unveiled '  (d'Hol- 
bach),  140-1 

Cic^,  Abb6  de,  208,  209,  224 

Clavijo,  240-1 

'  Clergy,  The  Mind  of  the  ' 
(d'Holbach),  141 

'Commentary  on  Horace'  (Gali- 
ani),  73,  94 

'  Commentary  on  Pascal '  (Con- 
dorcet),  272 

Condorcet,  Mademoiselle  de,  277, 

Condorcet,  Marquis  de,  24,  25,  29, 
30, 196, 199,  221-2 ;  his  position 
and  birth,  268 ;  education,  269- 
270  ;  character,  270-1  ;  visits 
Voltaire,  271-2 ;  made  Secre- 
tary of  Academy  of  Sciences, 
272-3 ;  work  with  Turgot,  274  ; 
member  of  French  Academy, 
275  ;  marriage,  275  -  7 ;  as 
Women's  Eights  champion,  277 ; 
as  a  politician,  278-9 ;  at  the 
trial  of  Louis  XVI.,  280-3 ; 
writes  '  Appeal '  and  is  pro- 
scribed, 284-6  ;  in  hiding,  286- 
292 ;  writes  ♦  Progress  of  Human 
Mind,'  &c.,  289-91 ;  his  wander- 
ings, 292-5;  arrest  and  death, 
295 ;  work  and  character,  297-8 

Condorcet,  Marquise  de  (Mile,  de 
Grouchy),  275-7,  285-6,  287-8, 
289,  296-7 

'  Corn  Trade,  Dialogues  on  the ' 
(Galiani),  62,  68,  86-90,  226 

'Corn  Trade,  Letters  on  the' 
(Turgot),  226 

'  Counsels  to  a  Young  Man ' 
(Vauvenargues),  103,  111 

Daubini£:re,  Madame,  85,  93 
Dazincourt  (actor),  255,  261 
Deffand,  Madame  du,  18-19,  195 
Destouches,  General,  3,  4,  6 

*  Destruction  of  the  Jesuits,  History 

of  the '  (d'Alembert),  25,  133 
Diderot,  Ang61ique.    See  Vandeul, 

Mme.  de 
Diderot,  Denis,  11,  17,  30,  88,  125, 
128,  130, 131, 138,  143,  163, 165, 
168, 170, 191-2, 199, 202 ;  educa- 
tion, 32-3;  early  life  in  Paris, 
34-6  ;  marriage,  37-8  ;  episode 
of  Mme.  Puisieux,  39 ;  writes 
'  Essay  on  Merit  and  Virtue  ' 
and  '  Philosophical  Thoughts,' 
39  ;  birth  of  his  daughter,  40 ; 
writes  '  Letter  on  the  Blind,' 
41 ;  prisoner  in  Vincennes,  42-3 ; 
works  at  Encyclopasdia,  43-8 ; 

j       miscellaneous    labours,    49-51 ; 
episode  of    Mile.   Volland,  51 ; 

I       visits  salons,  52-3 ;  visits  Grand- 

:       val,  53-6  ;  produces  plays,  56 ; 

i       visits  Catherine  the  Great,  56-8  ; 

i       sees  Voltaire,  58-9  ;  illness  and 

j       death,   60-1 ;    estimate    of  his 

I       work  and  character,  61 
Diderot,     Madame     (Mile.    Anne 
Toinette  Champion),  36-9, 40-1, 
51,  60-1 

*  Dynamics,  Treatise  on  '  (d'Alem- 

bert), 10 

I  'Elements      of      Philosophy' 

(d'Alembert),  17,  72 
Encyclopaedia,     The,    11-13,    14, 

15-17,  43-8,  56,  121,  133,  150, 

'  Epinay,     Correspondence     with 

Madame  d'  (Galiani),  68 
Epinay  (Madame  d'),  52-3,  79-80, 

93,  125,  163-7,  172 
'  Eugenie '  (Beaumarchais),  241 
'  Existence '  (Turgot),  133,  213 

*  Fame  and   Pleasure,  Discourses 

on  '  (Vauvenargues),  103 
'Father    of    the    Family,    The' 

(Diderot).  56 
Fel,  Mademoiselle  (opera  dancer), 

150-1,  166 

*  Figaro,  The  Marriage  of  '  (Beau- 

marchais), 252-60 
Franklin,  Benjamin,  129-30,  204 



Frederick    the  Great,   10,  13-14, 
17-18,  88,  144,  156,  158,  167-8, 
202      , 
Fr6ron,  Elie  (journalist),  88 
Frise,  or  Frisen,  Comte  de,  153, 

tion,    172-3 ;    last    years   and 
death,  174-5  ;  his  mission,  175 
Guilty     Mother,     The'     (Beau- 
marchais),  264,  26G 

Galiani,  Abbe,  125,  130,  135-6, 
144,  148 ;  his  characteristics, 
62-3 ;  birth  and  education, 
63-4 ;  at  the  Academy  of  Naples, 
64-5  ;  literary  work,  65  ;  reli- 
gion, 66 ;  posts  and  pensions, 
67-8 ;  appointed  Secretary  in 
Paris,  68-9 ;  his  reception  there, 
70-1 ;  his  popularity,  71-3 ;  as 
a  conversationalist,  73-4 ;  at  the 
salons,  74-80;  his  wit,  81-2; 
his  work,  82-3 ;  visits  London, 
83-4  ;  recalled  to  Naples,  84-6 ; 
publishes  'Dialogues  on  Corn 
Trade,'  86-7 ;  its  reception, 
87-90;  life  at  Naples, ,  90-3 ; 
friendship  with  Mnie.  d'Epinay, 
93 ;  illness  and  death,  94-5 ; 
his  mission,  95 
Galiani,  Bernard,  63-4,  92 
Galiani,  Celestin,  63-4,  67 
Garrick,  David,  55,  56, 129 
'  Geneva '     (d'Alembert),     15-16, 

Geoffrin,  Madame,  52,  66,  74-5, 

'  Goezman    Memoirs '    {Beaumar- 

chais),  241,  243-6 
'  Good  Sense  '  (d'Holbach),  147 
Graffigny,     Madame     de,    183-4, 

Grimm,  Melchior,  49,  52-3,  58, 
71,  79,  88,  125,  130,  144-5  ;  his 
love  affair  with  Mile.  Fel, 
150-1;  birth  and  early  life, 
151-2;  character,  152-4;  life 
in  Paris,  154-5 ;  his  '  Literary 
Correspondence,'  156-63 ;  his 
attachment  to  Mme.  d'Epinay, 
163-6;  visits  Geneva,  166-7; 
and  Frederick  the  Great,  167-8  ; 
and  England,  168;  and  i^e 
Eussian  Court,  168-70;  corre- 
sponds  with  Catherine  the  Great, 
171 ;  his  conduct  in  the  Revolu- 

'  Happiness  '  (Helvetius),  180,  204 

Helvetius,  Claude  Adrien,  91,  127, 
212 ;  his  family  and  education, 
176-8;  life  in  Paris,  178-9; 
visits  Voltaire,  180;  relations 
with  Montesquieu,  181 ;  his 
charities,  182 ;  assists  Prince 
Charles  Edward,  182-3;  meets 
and  marries  Mile,  de  Ligni- 
ville,  183-5 ;  his  hfe  and  good 
works  at  Vor6,  185-92;  his 
book  'On  the  Mind,'  192-4; 
effects  of  its  publication,  195-9 ; 
his  salofi  in  Paris,  199-200 ; 
visits  England,  201-2 ;  and 
Frederick  the  Great,  202 ;  his 
book  '  On  Man,'  202-3  ;  declin- 
ing years,  203 ;  death,  204  ;  his 
work  and  position,  204-5 

Helvetius,  Madame  (Mile,  de 
Ligniville),  183-92,  197,  199- 
200,  203-4,  212 

Holbach,  Baron  d',  53,  55,  56, 
76-7,  155  ;  his  position  in  the 
eighteenth  century,  118 ;  and 
among  Voltaire's  friends,  119  ; 
early  life,  120-1 ;  marriage,  121 ; 
salon  in  the  Kue  Royale,  121-2 ; 
life  and  society  at  Grandval, 
122-138;  visit  to  England, 
138-9 ;  opinion  of  the  English, 
139-40 ;  publishes  *  Christianity 
Unveiled,'  140-1;  and  'The 
System  of  Nature,'  141-4 ;  its 
reception,  144-5 ;  its  philo- 
sophy, 145-6;  publishes  other 
books,  147 ;  his  last  years  and 
death,  148-9 ;  his  character  in 
contrast  to  his  book,  149 

Holbach,  Madame  d',  121, 123, 131, 

Hope  (Pke  Hoop),  123-4, 130 

Houdetot,  Madame  d',  125-6, 

Hume,  David,  55,  56,  83,  128,  182, 
200,  201 



'Imaginary      Socrates,     The' 

(Galiani),  92 
•  Instincts  and  Habitual  Tastes  of 

Man,  The '  (Galiani),  92 
'  Integral    Calculus,    Essay    on ' 

(Condorcet),  269-70 
'  Introduction  to  the  Knowledge  of 

the    Human    Mind'    (Vauven- 

argues),  111 

'Junius,  Letter  of,  to  William 
Pitt '  (Condorcet),  290-1 

'  Justice  and  Virtue,  Letter  on ' 
(Condorcet),  269 

'Justification,  The'  (Condorcet), 
288,  289 

La  Harpb,  Jean  FranQois  de,  156, 

Le  Breton  (publisher),  43,  48 
Lespinasse,  Mademoiselle  de,  18- 

24,  27-28 
*  Literary    Correspondence,    The  ' 

(Grimm  and  Diderot),  49,  63, 

79, 150, 156-63,  170 
Louis  XV.,  16-17,  69,  70,  83,  237, 

239,  242,  246 
Louis   XVI.,   224,   225,  226,  227, 

228-9,  231-2,  233,  252-3,  260-1, 

278,  280-3 
Louis  XVIII.,  231 

Malesheebes,  195,  231-2 

'  Man,  On '  (Helv6tius),  202-3,  204 

Marie  Antoinette,  225,  230-1,  232, 

233,  245,  246,  253,  261-2,  274-5 
Marmontel,  Jean    Francois,  112, 

113,  127 
Maurepas,    Comte    de,   224,  225, 

226,  231 
'  Meditation  on  Faith '  (Vauven- 

argues),  103,  109,  111 
Meister  (Grimm's  helper),  163, 170 
•Merit    and    Virtue,    Essay    on' 

(Diderot),  39 
'  Mind,  On  the '  (Helvaius),  127, 

193-9,  202-3,  204-5 
Mirabeau,  Gabriel  Honors,  Comte 

de,  263 
Mirabeau,  Victor  Eiquetti,  Marquis 

de,  97-8, 100-1 

UoU  (actor),  255 
Molin,  Doctor,  4,  11 
•  Money,  Essay  on '  (Galiani),  65, 67 
Montesquieu,  181 
Morellet,  Abbe,  88-9, 125, 199-200, 
208,  210 

•Natural  Son,  The '  (Diderot),  56, 

Necker  (Jacques),  75-6,  227-8,  274 
Necker  (Madame),  52,  75-6 

'  Paper  Money,  Letter  on  '   (Tur- 

got),  208 
Paris-Duverney    (financier),    240, 

241,  243 
'  Philosophical    Thoughts,     The ' 

(Diderot),  39,  41 
'Physical     Degradation    of     the 

Eoyal    Races,  Essay    on    the ' 

(Condorcet),  291 
'  PoUsh  Exile,  Letter  of  a '  (Con- 
dorcet), 291 
Pompadour,  Madame  de,  155,  178 
Por6e,  P^re,  177 
'Portable  Theology'  (d'Holbach), 

•Preface,  The'   (d'Alembert),  12, 

13,  31,  45 
•Priests  Unmasked'  (d'Holbach), 

'Progress  of    the  Human  Mind, 

History    of     the'    (Condorcet), 

289-90,  291,  296 
'  Prophet,  The  Little,  of  Boehmisch- 

broda '  (Grimm),  155 
Puisieux,  Madame,  39-40,  43 

'  Eameau's  Nephew '  (Diderot),  61 
Baynal,  Abbe,  127,  129,  151,  156, 

•  Reflections '  (Vauvenargues),  111 
Rousseau,  Jean  Jacques,  16,  43, 

47,  126-7,   128,  133,  151,  154, 

164-6,  196, 199 
Rousseau,  Madame,  5-6 

Saint-Lambert,  Marquis    de,  72, 
126,  164-5 



Sarret,  287,  292 

Saxe-Gotha,  Duchess  of,  153,  156, 
158, 167 

*  Seneca,  Life  of  '  (Diderot),  53 

*  Social  System, The'  (d'Holbach), 

Sterne,  Laurence,  55,  56,  85,  128 
Suard,  J.  B.,  156,  293-4 
Suard,  Madame,  293-4 

*  System  of  Nature,  The  '  (d'Hol- 

bach), 141-7,  149 

*  Taeabe  '  (Beaumarchais),  263 

Tencin,  Madame  de,  3-4,  6, 10-11, 

Tercier  (press  censor),  194,  197 

Terrai,  Abb6,  225 

'  Theory  of  Winds,  Treatise  on  the ' 
(d'Alembert),  10 

Theriot,  156 

Turgot,  Anne  Eobert  Jacques,  89- 
90,  125,  133,  136,  184,  195-6, 
204,  273-4,  275  ;  his  character 
and  work,  206-7;  birth  and 
education,  207-8;  at  the  Sor- 
bonne,  208-10;  at  Madame  de 
Graffigny's,  211-12 ;  visits  Vol- 
taire, 213-14;  as  Intendant  of 
Limoges,  214-24  ;  Minister 
of  Marine,  224-5;  Controller- 
General,  225-32  ;  his  dismissal, 
232-3 ;  last  years  and  death, 
233-4 ;  position  among  Vol- 
taire's friends,  235 

'  Turgot,  Life  of '  (Condorcet),  221- 
222,  275 

Universal  Morality '  (d'Holbach), 

Vandeul,  Madame  de  (Ang61ique 
Diderot),.40-1,  57,  59,  60 

Vaudreuil,  Comte  de,  253,  261 

Vauvenargues,  Luc  de  Clapiers, 
Marquis  de,  character  of  his 
writing,  96;  birth  and  educa- 
tion, 97-8 ;  as  a  soldier,  98-100 ; 
campaign  in  Bohemia,  101-2 ; 
invalided,  103-4  ;  friendship 
with  Voltaire,  104-7 ;  settles  in 
Paris,  107-8;  his  philosophy, 
108-11;  his  book,  111-13; 
friends  in  Paris,  113-14 ;  illness 
and  death,  115-17 

Vergniaud,  Pierre,  221,  288 

Vernet,  Madame,  286,  287,  289, 
291,  292,  294 

VoUand,  Mademoiselle,  51,  52,  54, 

'  VoUand,  Letters  to  Mademoiselle ' 
(Diderot),  54,  61,  130,  138 

Voltaire,  Arouet  de,  1,  17,  62,  96-7, 
225-6,  233,  250,  260;  visited 
by  d'Alembert,  15,  25-6  ;  friend- 
ship with  Diderot,  41-2, 55, 58-9 ; 
opinion  of  Galiani's  '  Dialogues,' 
87 ;  friendship  with  Vauven- 
argues, 104-7,  113-14 ;  opinion 
of  Vauvenargues'  '  Maxims,' 
112-13 ;  of  d'Holbach's '  System 
of  Nature,'  144,  146;  and  of 
Grimm's  '  Little  Prophet,'  155  ; 
visited  by  Grimm  and  Mme. 
d'Epinay,  166;  friendship  with 
Helv^tius,  179-80;  opinion  of 
his  book  'On  the  Mind,'  196, 
198-9 ;  visited  by  Turgot,  213- 
214,  234 ;  opinion  of  Beaumar- 
chais, 242  ;  and  of  the  *  Goezman 
Memoirs,'  245 ;  visited  by  Con- 
dorcet, 271-2 

Walpole,  Horace,  129, 135 
*  Wealth,  Eeflections  on  the  Refor- 
mation   and    Distribution  [  of ' 
(Turgot),  222 
Wilkes,  John,  55,  56,  129,  247 

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